Will FPI & Steve Baker Change

Hard Rock Park: I have tried my best to get an email to Steve Baker of FPI, as I've seen "worth looking into" ideas (if I may be so bold as to think mine is) somehow die in transit to "final decision makers".

From Bill Kelm
Posted February 23, 2009 at 3:25 PM
First, thanks to Robert Niles for allowing me to put a link to my blog post entitled:
"Will FPI & Steve Baker Change "Hard Rock Park" to "Happy Days Park"?

I did put a link to his blog within mine, as I found his 2/10/09 "A buyer for Hard Rock Park, after all?" post to have his response to a comment very relevant to my purpose of my blog post.

Please respond below with your comments on my question-asking blog (even though I ask for comments on mine), as it will be easier for you to do so, and more proper blog etiquette to do it that way. Thanks!

From steve lee
Posted February 23, 2009 at 4:21 PM
Yeah. Good luck with that.

From Derek Potter
Posted February 23, 2009 at 5:09 PM
I like the music theme that the park is going with. All of the shows, scenery, and theming tie in nicely with the different genres of music. That being said, is there a specific reason that they need to keep the Hard Rock brand to continue with the music theme as it's been designed? What exactly does Hard Rock bring to the table besides all of the cool memorabilia hanging around the park? Yes, they bring a familiar brand that everyone knows about, but I contend that the Hard Rock brand doesn't have a lot to do with the success of the park. I don't think it was the reason for failure, nor am I convinced that it would be a catalyst for success. Hard Rock is a brand...just like Busch is a brand, and I don't think that the average consumer/park guest cares much about brand. What they do care about is the quality of experience that the park offers. When you think about it, it wasn't Budweiser and it's name recognition that was responsible for Busch Garden's success. A little free beer doesn't hurt, but it was the quality of management, the designers that they employed, and a sense of pride and entertainment they instilled that gave Busch Gardens and Sea World the success and reputation that they deserve and enjoy. Quite simply, it doesn't really matter whose name is on the park, as long as the park offers a great experience.

When I visited Hard Rock Park (on the last day of operation), I thought that designwise, they were off to a great start. The theming was detailed and immersive, the shows were highly entertaining, the soundtrack was the best, and the attractions were for the most part, on the level with a high class theme park experience. The problems that they had were lack of rides, high prices, and a complete whiff in the marketing and management department.

The first problem is and always will be an issue with brand new parks. The Disney parks went through the same growing pains with lack of attractions, but focused on quality, and over time they grew into the parks they are now. There have been very few parks in history that could really be considered a complete experience when they first opened...the latest exception being Islands of Adventure, which cost over a billion dollars 10 years ago to build.

It is the second set of problems...which all point to upper level management, that the new owners will have to fix. The "floor employees" of Hard Rock, the ones that interact and serve guests, were great and could not have been more friendly or capable during my visit. The paltry attendance and red financial numbers that Hard Rock turned in were not indicative of the quality of experience that they offered. They were indicative of a management team that was ill prepared and unequipped to promote the park and manage the books. They set prices too high, assumed that travelers would just show up after seeing one of the dozens of billboards that they advertised on, and couldn't do anything to fix things when they didn't show up.

When it comes down to it, keeping the Hard Rock name probably won't hurt the park, but it will make it less of a pain to get the park ready for the season. Unless Hard Rock has some ace in the hole or magic pill that makes building and running a music theme park easier, I'm still not quite convinced that they are worth the millions that the park will have to pay to use their name.

With regard to the Happy Days theme, I think that it's just too narrow to build a whole park around. The 50's theme works for a restaurant, or perhaps a section of the park, but how many rides and shows can you theme around Happy Days and the 50's that would be culturally relevant. Kings Island, my home park, once had the Happy Days Diner back when Paramount was the owner. It was a well themed 50's cafe, probably done only because Paramount owns the rights to the show. I'm sure that they wouldn't have paid for the rights if they had to. I say, stick with the music theme...with or without Hard Rock.

From Robert Niles
Posted February 23, 2009 at 5:14 PM
Just throwing this out there...

No one's using the "Opryland" theme anymore, right? Who'd like to see that come back?

From Bill Kelm
Posted February 23, 2009 at 5:43 PM
Thanks, Steve and Derek for your input. I agree with both of you, because I'm not dead set on "Happy Days". But, if that brand cost less to lease the brand, then maybe the ticket price will be even lower than Steve Baker is planning on. Plus, with the economy being what it is now, I thought "Happy Days" would evoke "good feelings, peace, music, and prosperity". To me, "Hard Rock" evokes mostly "heavy metal" and "hard times". But, no matter what the brand/name, you could have all kinds of music from the 50's till today! Why limit it to the 50's, or just one kind of music?

That said, even Steve Baker, who knows amusement parks real well, said something to the effect that it is marketing that brings them in, but it is operations that keeps them coming back. I think eveyone agrees with that!

As far as Opryland is concerned, Robert, I used to live near Grapevine, TX where the Gaylord Texan was built. It was originally supposed to be called "Opryland, Texas", but the brand owners, Gaylord Hotels , changed their mind. I think that it was because the "Opryland brand" is mainly associated with only "Country", and the Gaylord Opryland - Nashville, TN area. That said, there is an "Opryland USA" in Myrtle Beach already doing Country style shows. I don't know how popular it is, but a second "Opryland" in Myrtle Beach might get confusing to some.

I guess I just like "Happy Days", because to me, it is a "lightning rod for positive emotion", and it "recognizes when the consumer's mindset or lifestyle changes and immediately lets the consumer know it knows."

From James Rao
Posted February 23, 2009 at 7:22 PM
I agree with Derek on this one: a Happy Days attraction or area would be okay, but a whole park is a bit much. However, the Happy Days theme just screams for a Jump The Shark ride, don't you think?

IMHO, the moniker Hard Rock Park is probably a detriment to the whole-family experience the new owners will need to manufacture if they are to capture the coveted "Disney Vacation Dollar." Honestly, they could just call the park Rock World and people wouldn't care as long as the experience was worth the investment of time and money.

From Derek Potter
Posted February 23, 2009 at 7:59 PM
It isn't a stretch to think that some would misinterpret Hard Rock Park as having to do only with rock music. In the past it did, but as times have changed, so has the company.

Nowadays, the Hard Rock brand does in fact pay homage to all types of music, and so does the park. There already is a 50's themed spot at HRP, between the Carnaby Street and kiddie sections of the park. They also have sections that are themed to country music, 80's, punk, reggae, and disco. Some are more in depth or bigger than others, but again, it takes time.

From James Rao
Posted February 23, 2009 at 8:18 PM
Okay...call it Music World and be done with it. The name of the park is only mildly important. "A rose by any other name would smell as sweet..." and all that.....if it is a great theme park, the name will be irrelevant. Eventually the names all just get abbreviated anyway: WDW, USF, IOA, SWO, CP, BGE, and, oh yeah, HRP....

From Bill Kelm
Posted March 5, 2009 at 3:10 PM
Thanks for all your good input. I just want to say that the name and brand "Happy Days" doesn't necessarily only mean the music of the 50's. It can mean all kinds of happy, feet stomping, toe tapping, arm waving, good dancing music! My main purpose in suggesting it in this unhappy & sad economy we are temporarily dealing with has more to do with the song: "Happy Days are here again...." People need their spirits lifted, and all people want "Happy Days" over "Hard Times" - Just my opinion.

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