Just Published: Theme Park Insider: 2016 Year in Review
There was NO ONE there at the park. I'd estimate 4-500 patrons. It was one of the best days I've ever had at an amusement park. It was a very small, easy-to-get-around, nicely laid out park. They didn't even charge me for parking because of the bikers. It was expensive..I want to say $50-55.
The Led Zeppelin coaster was one of my favorite steels ever, a thrilling combination of music, theming, and B&M's quality. I rode it 12 times. I also enjoyed Eagles' Life In The Fast Lane, a mine train on steroids.
I'm sad I'll never see it in that form again, but I'm grateful to have experienced it once.
In my opinion, Hard Rock shouldn't have failed. The park was good as a brand new park and had huge potential. It was themed well, designed well, had plenty of shows and restaurants, and good rides, even though they could have used a couple more. What did the park in was management. They mismanaged their money, and weren't prepared for the long haul. While they were building the park, costs were higher due to the cost of materials and fuel. By the time they opened, the economy had tanked, banks were paralyzed, and people weren't spending money. Even in the face of low attendance and revenue, they still spent money like water, and by some accounts, some of the senior management had jumped ship as early as June of the first year. The whole story is kind of like a teenage kid getting a Mercedes and then crashing it.
New attempts to successfully run the park have been mired in financial settlements, lawsuits, and debts to vendors and contractors. The new owners inherited a giant mess when they bought the park, and the previous ownership made it worse when they somehow won a property rights suit for Hard Rock Park.
So the story goes like this. There was once a good product with a giant potential market. Management found a way to screw it up, and in the process went broke and alienated it's vendors. They filed for bankruptcy and the park was sold to a new owner. The old owners then took the new owners to court to sue for the property rights that they had just sold to the new owners. New owners now don't have the money to operate because they can't pay their vendors and have lost a lot of their investors.
What's sad is that Hard Rock Park could have thrived had the right people been at the controls. Tourism and spending at Myrtle Beach is headed back up to pre-recession levels.
They just never seemed willing to adapt to anything that was happening. By the end of the first week, they should have realized something was wrong. They sat on their one-price admission (i.e., no child tickets) for at least two months before realizing that you can't get families that way (of course, there wasn't jack or squat for children to do anyways). $50 admission was too high, especially with no incentives for the local market (and believe me, the local market turned against them BIG TIME). Their argument was "why should we give discounts to the locals? They should all have season passes!" Well, at $150 a pop, season pass sales weren't exactly brisk (of course, those of us that did have season passes got a sweet deal the following year).
Making matters worse was the apparent inability of anyone in management to stop overstaffing. The park was always staffed as if they were going to be slammed at any moment. I can safely say that most of the park staff was really nice. Know why I can say that? Because they had nothing better to do that strike up conversations (okay, elephant in the room moment: that only applies to the park staff that had a decent relationship with the English language. There was a huge amount of Eastern European employees in the park. I would say it was not proportionate with the number of Eastern Europeans normally residing in Myrtle Beach. I cast no judgements here, mind you, because Eastern European girls are HOT).
So then there's the new owners. I think they may have been able to pull it off. I had a very long conversation with their PR manager, and he really seemed highly knowledgable of the industry and discussed some of the park's expansion plans. They had some great ideas. Unfortunately, the new guys couldn't escape from the problems they were left by the old guys. I believe that in another year or two, Freestyle Music Park could have been a great success story.
But that's not the hand they were dealt (did the new owners know how high the mountain of debt was, or was there creative accounting performed by the previous guys to lure in a sucker?). The website is gone, their Facebook presence disappeared back in February, and there hasn't been a single statement made regarding what the future holds. We've passed the point where keeping our fingers crossed will accomplish anything...
Walt Disney World
Tokyo Disney Resort