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Vote of the week: Would you have visited Hard Rock Park in 2009?

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Published: December 19, 2008 at 12:46 AM

Plug in the amp and tune the guitars; it's time for the fat lady to sing.

There does not appear to be a buyer for Hard Rock Park, all but dashing hopes that the bankrupt theme park will reopen after what appears to have been its only season.

Many blame the park's management for not advertising and marketing the new theme park aggressively. I got several notes from a park PR rep in advance of its opening last spring, including an invite to attend media previews. But as the summer went on, I stopped hearing from the park. And I never noticed ads for Hard Rock Park on TPI or other websites, despite the fact that all other major U.S. theme parks were advertising extensively on the Web.

Would more publicity have helped? Let's vote on what your plans would have been for visiting Hard Rock Park in 2009.

Let's start by voting on what you did do in 2008.

Now, take a look at the park's attractions, if you haven't before. Assume that the park would be priced the same as whatever you consider a comparable park to be, with similar crowds and discounts. And that you could find a reasonably priced hotel room for your budget in the Myrtle Beach area. Would you have gone to Hard Rock Park in 2009, if you had had the chance?

Share in the comments your ideas on what could have saved (or might yet still save) Hard Rock Park.

Readers' Opinions

From James Rao on December 19, 2008 at 4:47 AM
If I would have known it was going to close so quickly, I probably would have tried a lot harder to go THIS year. By the time I knew the park was doomed, my travel budget for 2008 was spent.
From Tim W on December 19, 2008 at 5:27 AM
I went in july this year and didn't have the great of a time.
From Don Neal on December 19, 2008 at 7:14 AM
We visited Myrtle Beach this year and drove by it a few times and honestly I wasn't impressed, drawn in, or interested at all. Not to say that they don't have good rides or theming. But it's location was strange, the signage and entrance area wasn't much to talk about. And the surrounding area where it was located wasn't invested much into either. You would think that something big like that would have more surrounding development. It was very disappointing.

So a lack of marketing, preparation, knowing the industry, knowing the customers, and arogance seem to be the culprits here.

From Derek Potter on December 19, 2008 at 8:49 AM
The park is in a odd place, and could use some surrounding cover (trees..etc) to shield it from the highway and isolate the land. The neighborhood around it was starting to emerge from some down times. The success of the park would have obviously had a positive effect on development. On the inside, the park delivered the goods. I would have liked to have seen a couple more rides, but the park was new and they made up for it with entertaining shows.

The only thing really missing from the park was the people. If anyone has ever been to a park on a "dead" day, you know what I mean...although I think that this particular day (which happened to be the last day they were open) was the quintessential definition of dead. A couple of employees told me that the count was under 1000 for the day. Of course it was mid-fall and the big season was pretty much over with, but..ouch.

When people talk about this place, it's almost like they forget that it's a new park. Disney World was lacking when it first opened, but with time, look what it became. While it's highly unlikely that Hard Rock would have grown into the entity that Disney World is, they would have likely added more with a little time and money. I hope that PARC, or someone else finds a way to open back up. The fact that the minimum bid wasn't met for the auction simply astounds me. Obviously the economy is scaring everyone away, but even in these conditions (which will pass), 35 million for HRP is bargain basement pricing, and most companies worth their salt could make profit with that kind of debt in that market.

People are scared of the economy, scared so much that they are blind to the fact that it will pass. Any good businessman will tell you that this isn't the time to panic and sell, it's the time to buy.

Would I have gone in 2009? Given the fact that I go to MB pretty much every year anyway, the answer is absolutely. The park was entertaining and fun. I would spend more money there too if the prices were a little more friendly.

Any investors out there interested in something that isn't a ponzi scheme?

From Robert Niles on December 19, 2008 at 9:25 AM
Well, then, to meet what appears to be Wall Street's demands, we simply need to rename HRP "Ponzi Park," and convert it to a financial services theme.
From Andy Guinigundo on December 19, 2008 at 10:47 AM
Well, there have been worse park openings in recent years - anyone remember the Wild West World fiasco? The place was open about 60 days! Even in that case, there were recent plans in the works for it to re-theme and re-open. But, the current economic situation blah blah blah.

Suffice it to say, HRP in some form may not be dead (albeit only a few beats left perhaps).

I'd love to the that Zeppelin roller coaster. However, many times one's vision outweighs their pocket books or their smarts/ability to make the dream a reality. This seems to be the case of these developers...

From SC Todbear on December 19, 2008 at 11:07 AM
Honestly...WHY did they pick that spot??? Had it been up on the by-pass, it could have been a beautiful park and I feel would have been able to grow as time would demand. I agree with others that it lacked the visual attraction to draw people in. I hate that this will probably be the end of parks in that region. And of course the price was way too high considering the limited amount of attractions.
From Mark Hollamon on December 19, 2008 at 12:17 PM
After looking at photos and reading information on the rides it is clear that this park does not pack enough punch to attract people outside a 100 mile radius.
From Deidre Dennis on December 19, 2008 at 12:59 PM
Based on location and what it costs us to fly from Washington State to that part of the country, coupled with the fact that it didn't seem like it offered a lot of rides (which is our fortay), definitely would not have went.

If near the area for another reason, possibly a side trip but would not have made plans specifically to travel to that area.

From Kevin Oppenheim on December 19, 2008 at 1:57 PM
I went to the Hard Rock Theme Park last summer.We arrived a half hour before the park opened.The ticket booths were down, and we sat in the heat for about an hour. The management felt sorry, and gave everybody bottled water. Finally when we got in the park we noticed how empty it was for the first week of July. The shows were not to the caliber of Disney or the Busch Corp. The only ride I enjoyed was Knights in White Satin, all the other rides were same ole.same ole. I could not believe there were no simulator rides or 3D shows. We went on every ride in the park including lunch where we done everything in 4 hours. No discounts unless you lived in North or South Carolina.Tickets were 50.00. When I left the park I told my wife it won't last a year I was right. In August went to Dollywood in TN. Had a wonderful 2 days at this theme park.
From Derek Potter on December 19, 2008 at 2:51 PM
I'm not exactly sure why they picked that spot for the park. There are other parcels of land that it could have been built on. The highway 17 bypass would have been a good flat spot that is a happening place in MB. Perhaps it was land that the owners already had or bought for cheap. The land it was built on was at one time a mall, but it and many of the surrounding businesses closed down when Broadway and other spots opened up on hwy 17. It wasn't a slum or anything like that, just a past it's prime commercial district that obviously would have been fully revitalized with HRP success.
From steve lee on December 19, 2008 at 3:39 PM
One of the investors in the park (I believe it was Binkowski) already had ownership or at least a share of the ice house theatre (where the Country Rocks show was held). That may have been a factor in their decision.

I was there the last day too, Derek! So I guess you were that other guy in the park!

From Peter Stephens on December 20, 2008 at 7:24 AM
Family went in '08. Absolutely NOTHING to draw us back soon. (That is ultimately why this park failed. No real potential for repeat customers and/or high season pass sales.) Might have gone back in, say, 2012, if new attractions were built. We DID enjoy the park. Led Zepplin is a unique coaster. It probably can't retain the theming if moved elsewhere. (Although, that might be a good thing. That LZ biography and "Whole Lotta Love" gets REALLY old after a couple of rides!)
From Larry Zimmerman on December 20, 2008 at 8:03 AM
Myrtle Beach...where's that, again? And who goes there?
From Robert Niles on December 20, 2008 at 11:54 AM
Okay, the numbers are small, and the nature of both the site and the question mean that we've got a much higher-than-normal percentage of former HRP visitors in the mix.

But the numbers do suggest to me that what HRP had here, in terms of attracting visitors, was not a marketing problem.

We've got a site of theme park fans here, the base of any theme park's market. And, even after looking at extensive information about the park, about 60 percent of the people in this vote would not strongly consider a visit to Hard Rock Park. And about 40 percent would not consider a trip at all.

That ain't good for HRP.

Indeed, a smaller percentage of respondents said that'd definitely visit in 2009 than said they did visit in 2008, when attendance was anemic.

That ain't good, either.

Given that we did not uncover a high percentage of theme park fans who said that they'd visit, once they'd heard about it, that leads me to believe that HRP's biggest problems with theme park fans lay elsewhere - with location, site and attraction line-up.

Without the hard-core fans, HRP is left to appeal to casual fans. But in the Internet era, the decisions of casual visitors often is determining by word-of-mouth generated by hard-core fans. With no buzz, no passionate fan base, a mediocre location and a lousy site, a so-so attraction line-up won't bring in enough visitors.

I just don't see a business case for this park anymore. So the question becomes... which park will buy the Led Zeppelin coaster for the 2010 season?

From Jason Williams on December 20, 2008 at 12:29 PM
Location was a problem? Maybe a little; however, with their budget did anyone think that maybe they did not have time to develop it and possibly develop the surrounding area in the future? Oh, and Robert, you said there were no major airports nearby in a previous thread. I am not sure if you have been or Myrtle Beach and near their airport, but it is a fairly busy airport. It may not be the size of the big airports like Orlando, O'hare, etc. but it is busy. I do not see that being a problem.

Not a lot of rides? Of course there were not. There are 2 simple reasons for this. 1) It's a THEME park and 2) It just opened up from scratch. With the all the start up costs, there could not have been enough money to make it into a Cedar Point, Dollywood, or Disney.

Not Disney or Universal scale? Of course it was not. How long have those parks been around? They have had time to establish themselves.

All of these have been reasons I have heard why Hard Rock Park failed. It is pathetic how so many people are quick to jump on the place and say how bad it is when there are logical reasons why it did not live up to what it was. Unlike many people, I am sad to see that it ended this way. Hard Rock Park had a ton of potential. Too bad we will never be able to see what it could be.

From Robert Niles on December 20, 2008 at 2:50 PM
A major airport would be one that people from the largest cities in the country can fly to, non-stop, multiple times a day. By that standard, Myrtle Beach is not close to being a major airport. Myrtle Beach had about 850,000 passenger departures in 2007. Atlanta's airport does that in, what, a week?

Frankly, at this point, if you wanted to open a new theme park in the U.S., you need to either do it either in a location that has a critical mass of existing parks (i.e. SoCal or Central Florida), or in a metro area of at least two million people, with a major airport, access via multiple Interstates and some established tourism.

Myrtle Beach fails on both options.

From Derek Potter on December 20, 2008 at 4:54 PM
MB has a metro population of 300,000. I73 is in the process of connecting several cities and other interstates...running from Michigan to the Strand Area. As far as tourism goes, name another spot on the east coast (besides Orlando) that brings in as much tourism (average 15ish million a year) as the Myrtle Beach area.

Robert I just can't agree totally with your logic on this one. It makes zero sense to open a park in Florida or SoCal unless you already are established in the area and are expanding. Land prices are too high, the market is saturated with parks that are owned by multibillion dollar conglomerates and have the deepest of pockets. There are several operations in the US that prove that a park doesn't have to be in a large metro area to be successful. Why doesn't it make sense to go to a huge family tourist market that has not been tapped by a park of any real size? A park in the middle of 15 million tourists is not doomed to fail by any stretch of the imagination, as long as the park has a solid business plan and knows it's market.

From Jason Williams on December 20, 2008 at 5:05 PM
Atlanta's airport probably does do that in a week considering it is the busiest airport in the world. You may be right on the airport situation; however, I still believe that it did not hurt Hard Rock Park. Derek made a very valid point. I really do not believe that the location is what put the park in its current situation.

Judging by what I have read, not just on this site but numerous others, what really hurt HRP was the negativity it was receiving for all the reasons I mentioned in my previous post. If it were open in 2009, I would make another trip there.

From Deidre Dennis on December 20, 2008 at 7:05 PM
Regardless of who you agree with, the park failed. Seems to me they just didn't offer enough to justify people going multiple times or at all. I know we never even considered going there based on the offerings. Whether you're one who is a coaster junkie or an amusement/theme park junkie, for me, their offerings were not appealing to me at all.
From Brian L on December 20, 2008 at 10:28 PM
I think it was just the wrong place, wrong time type of deal. 2008 will go down as the year that not just the American economy, but the world economy was just not supportive enough for any type of high cost, high risk deal of any type. I remember working for a low-cost airline (Independence Air) in the two summer seasons that plane fuel was skyrocketing. No matter how much business we got, it was never enough.

HRP sounds like a place that never really had that much of a chance in the first place. It would have been interesting to visit there. Mainly because I am a big fan of the Moody Blues and was curious as to how they would treat Knights in White Satin. I was actually making plans to visit there when i was driving back up from working in Orlando (Disney College Program FTW). But the location was just too far out of the way and the gas prices had not come down yet.

I've been to Myrtle Beach before, it is a nice area. Remember going to Myrtle Waves and catching some nice swells in the ocean. But our family never made a consistent effort to go there when Ocean City, Va. Beach and the Outer Banks are just so much closer. Myrtle Beach itself is just not really a magnet for most tourists when you have so many beaches in the Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina area. This is probably a contributing factor for most on the East Coast in that area. South Carolina is too far away from Fl, Va, Md and even N.C. with beaches so close to them. When someone goes to a beach they usually just go to... a beach. A family vacationing at a beach wants to relax, not wait in line at theme parks.

When a family wants to wait in line for a theme park; they go to the biggins; Knotts, Disney, Universal, Busch(for the time being). Anyway, i would have liked to have gone, but with the economy the way it is it would have been very unlikely. My two cents.

From Tim W on December 22, 2008 at 9:03 AM
Well first off the location was the main reason. just not many tourists wanting to go to theme parks when theyd rather go to the beach. It should have been located where music thrives. Myrtle beach isn't exactly a music capital of the world now. 2nd, hard rock should never have taken on a park by themselves. never never never, restaurants just shouldn't take that sort of risk. 3rd, the lack of quality and depth of rides. Yea the rides were fun, but most were disney or universal quality. There also wasn't that many rides and most could consider it a half day park. 4th the price. The price was outrageous. i think it was 50 dollars a day when we went in the summer. then the food was pretty pricey as well, but that compares to most theme parks. 5th, way too much anticipation. People were excited to hear about this park. however it didnt deliver and word spread QUICK about it being pretty bad. So bad that we even encountered a ticket person and the Alabama theatre where they sell tickets, suggest its not that great and is almost a waste. Thats pretty pathetic, but we did go just to check it out. Well thats my venting on hard rock park. May it find prosperity int he future with a new owner!
From Ronnie Roberts on December 22, 2008 at 8:12 PM
To the wise @ss that questioned where Myrtle Beach was and who goes to it...

...Myrtle Beach is in NE South Carolina, and ONLY attracts (on average) 14 million tourists per year.

I have it upon good authority (I live here and had several friends who worked for the park) that the shot-callers hired theme park personnel with all kinds of experience in their various capacities, and basically, didn't listen to 'em when they (almost all of 'em) warned them of the pending problems the parked faced BEFORE it opened.

Thos problems included....

1. Not enough to keep the average family of 4 busy enough to stay in the park more than 2-4 hours, tops. Who goes to your average Six Flags theme park and leaves after only 2-4 hours? I was told (again, by someone who knows their stuff in this capacity) that another $10 million in "shelf" rides would've filled the park out quite nicely and made the place worthwhile to that average family.

2. There wasn't NEARLY enough marketing done to promote this park. They shot their wad on the "theme" of the park, and had precious little to fill it out or market it. GREAT example... my mother has a co-worker in Augusta, Georgia who's family owns a timeshare in Myrtle Beach - we're only talking a four hour drive - and she knew NOTHING about HRP. How do you not market in Columbia, SC, Charleston, SC, Greenville/Spartanburg, SC, Wilmington, NC, Charlotte, NC, Savannah, Ga and Augusta, Ga??

3. Lack of finances ALSO led to a pathetic entertainment lineup. Those of you who rebutt those of us who complain about lack of rides with that weak "it's a THEME park not a RIDE park" line... you lose your argument when you see that the Hard ROCK Park had VERY few well-known acts booked in their inaugural (and only) season. They opened with their "grand opening" events with the Eagles, Moody Blues, etc., but they passed on the VANS Warped Tour (per a reliable source) and went on to only book a handful of name acts (Kid Rock, One Republic [who no-showed and were replaced with Bowling for Soup,] George Clinton and P-Funk, and Charlie Daniels and .38 Special [combo-show]. The Hard ROCK Park had less than five BIG shows outside their grand opening weekend over the course of their first (and only) season. Where's the "theme" in that?

I wish I knew people who had the $$$ for the minimum bid, and another $10-15 million to fill the park w/some of those "shelfed" rides and enough to market the joint, because I don't think the park's such a disaster that it wouldn't flourish if run and marketed properly.

Unfortunately, it never was, from the get-go.

From James Rao on December 23, 2008 at 5:46 AM
Ronnie, I am sure you are absolutely correct in everything you have written. However, I applaud the fact that HRP designers tried to break out of the traditional amusement park mold. I would rather the park failed (which it did) then to have another Six Flags lookalike filled with everyday, off-the-shelf spinners and flat rides. HRP was attempting, in its own cash-starved way, to set itself apart from the Six Flags of the world and be something better: a true theme park. We don't need another stationary carnival propped up by a decent coaster or two, we need more theme parks.

And I have heard...just a rumor mind you...that if you spend more than 2 - 4 hours at the cesspool that is Six Flags Saint Louis, you receive a mandatory tetanus shot as you leave... ;)

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