Park of the Week: Efteling

Hard Rock Park files Chapter 11; closes for the rest of the season

September 24, 2008, 7:56 PM · Well, we'll see how this one goes. Hard Rock Park has filed for Chapter 11 and closed for the duration of the 2008 season. They claim they'll reopen for the 2009 season, but there's little more hard information available other than that.

I still really like this park (I was just there again on Sunday), so I sincerely hope they manage to bounce back. They opened at a pretty bad time as far as the economy goes. Maybe things really will be able to improve to allow them to return next year. Time will tell, I guess.

Replies (25)

September 24, 2008 at 8:28 PM · This is terrible news. I was eagerly awaiting my chance to visit this park. I hope this is not a sign of things to come. Hopefully, this terrible economy doesn't affect Disney's lofty future plans for their parks or the upcoming Harry Potter island.
September 24, 2008 at 8:51 PM · I think it was a bad year to open up theme parks
September 24, 2008 at 10:22 PM · I don't care how bad a year this might have been economically (and, BTW, many other parks did quite well this year), not having the capital on hand to make it through the first year of operation is a sign of terribly myopic management.

Of course, long-time readers of this site will know that the investors behind Hard Rock Park weren't the sharpest tools in the shed, lashing out at TPI for calling B.S. on the park's inflated attendance projections.

Hmmm, let's see. Who turned out to be right, and who turned out to be wrong?

September 25, 2008 at 2:56 AM · 'Hard Rock' would be a great idea for one area of a theme park. But an ENTIRE theme park in a B-level tourist community?

I don't think so.

September 25, 2008 at 4:57 AM · Not trying to start an arguement here, but lots of the other theme parks either slashed their prices (Six Flags) or had foreign tourists. Bad management was probably the determining factor, but our wonderful economy did not give HRP too much room to mess up
September 25, 2008 at 7:43 AM · I'm just dumbfounded that the park didn't understand that almost any new business needs to have the capital on hand to operate for at least the first few years in the red before opening. Geez, that's just common practice (or is for businesses that make it).

When the talk started about the closing, I really didn't believe it, because I thought there was truly no way the park's mgt could have believed they'd have some major profits the very first season. I figured it was hype, and hoped that it would stir some interest in the park.

I hope they do figure out how to re-open. Myrtle Beach was something of a repeat destination for my family when I was a kid, and though I'm sure it's changed a lot since then, it's a great beach with a great state park (nice cheap way to stay, either camp or stay in a lodge if you can get one), and plenty of resorts, too. HRP sounds like it was/is a nice addition to the area's offerings. Not a destination park itself (yet), maybe, but a nice day when you need a break from the sand and surf.

September 25, 2008 at 8:35 AM · How incredibly unlucky.

My family and I were planning to attend HRP next Friday (October 3rd). So much for those plans. Oh well. Saving money is a good thing, right?

Like a lot of others, I find this hard to believe for the same reasons as everyone else. Why would you open a theme park (or any business) without having adequate funds? It just doesn't make sense. Perhaps someone needs to go back to business school and update their degree.

In other news, I'm not too shocked on account of this year's economic disasters. When the cost of living goes up and the wages remain the same, people are going to cut back on their spending (obviously).

September 25, 2008 at 9:59 AM · I have to agree with TH Creative. When I first heard about the park, I was somewhat leery. Then when I saw the offerings, which in my opinion seemed minor, I didn't think they would do too well. An area of a park themed to this, I absolutely agree. But an entire new park? I guess I wasn't buying it either, from jump street. You have to give people reasons to come back multiple times and from what I've seen and read everywhere, this park just doesn't have it. Hopefully they'll be able to rebound but I don't see it happening.
September 25, 2008 at 10:58 AM · I see a promotional opportunity here for Carowinds, Dollywood and other parks in the southeast. Bring us your unused, and now possibly useless, Hard Rock Park advanced-purchase ticket (or annual pass) for free or reduced-price admission to "our" park.

The promotional campaign alone would remind people that HRP is closed and that the sponsoring park remains open for business, potentially influencing tourists' decisions for this year and next.

It'd be a tough blow to HRP's chances for recovery, but this is a competitive business.

September 25, 2008 at 12:39 PM · I'm sad to see this happen. The park was great, but at least it done this before it hurt itself worse.

The theme works well for a WHOLE park. There is such a wide variety of rock music or music in general that makes it work.

I can see the mistake of anticipating more visitors per year than what they got. Considering Myrtle Beach is one of the top tourist destinations and doing research to see how many people typically go to amusement parks, the projections can be understandable. If you consider how many people were now closer to an amusement park (Carowinds is 4 hours from MB) and the number of tourists that go to MB, the projections are relatively acceptable. It was an understandable mistake (to those who think it through), but at least they will open up next year.

Great park, go to it if you get the chance in 09.

September 25, 2008 at 12:05 PM · it just wasn't a great park. it wasn't the type of area where people go to for theme parks. location, rides, and development all contributed to its early downfall.
September 25, 2008 at 12:12 PM · HRP just got some good national PR by having a spot on the Wheel of Fortune last Monday during Teen Best Friends week. A pair of kids won a trip to Myrtle Beach and the park.

HRP is an excellent park, I visited last May. While it is short on attractions they excel in delivering excellent guest service, keeping the park clean, hosting great live entertainment, and keeping a great theme throughout the park. I encourage all of you who aren't within a few hours drive to make a trip to Myrtle Beach and see this park for yourself when it reopens in Spring '09.

I stand by my claim that I've made on the TPI message boards that I think Myrtle Beach has the makings of a great theme park destination similar to Southern California and Central Florida. I am confident that HRP management will learn from their mistakes and have a stronger product in the future.

September 25, 2008 at 1:49 PM · I just noticed something interesting in HRP CEO Stephen Goodwin's affidavit for the bankrupcy. It states that the park only had $19.7 million in ticket sales. If you divide that by the $50 gate ticket price the park only had about 394,000 total visitors from opening in April to closing in September. That gives me a very rough estimate of around 2500 visitors a day. No major theme park can stay afloat with such dismal figures.
September 25, 2008 at 1:31 PM · I think in hindsight it appears that Myrtle Beach was not the spot for a $50 a ticket theme park. Most visitors want to just relax on the beach and enjoy cheap tourist trap attractions. One could argue that the park would have been more successful in Central Florida. Nevertheless, the economy clearly had an effect.
September 25, 2008 at 1:58 PM · An amusement park depends upon repeat customers and season ticket sales. HRP had to attract one-time visitors vacationing at Myrtle Beach which has WAY too many competing attractions. Additionally, the average family visiting MBSC isn't able/willing to plop down several hundred for a few hours when they've already plopped down thousands for the trip. (MBSC is the mecca for middle-class beach-goers. If you have $$$'s you'll be down at Hilton Head!) We went to HRP in August. (We drove down from Oak Island NC, for the day.) We had a great time. We left with absolutely no intention of returning (for at least a few years when, hopefully, a couple of coasters would be added). Other thoughts: Amusement parks at beaches should be "on-the-beach". HRP is in a run-down looking area. And, of course, the downturn in the economy and high gas prices, etc. came along at the wrong time for HRP. It is a shame. I'm glad we got to go (see my review on TPI). I hope they can make a come-back!
September 26, 2008 at 11:13 AM · There are lots of issues going on here. The advertising was not good; let's face it, it stunk. I knew tons of people who went to Myrtle who didn't know it was even there.

Yes, the economy but if your park is run well, it has done well. Cedar Fair reported increases in attendance for this year. Heck, Disney keeps increasing prices - not a sign of a struggling park.

I really do still want to ride some of those coasters!

September 26, 2008 at 11:21 AM · I'll Chime in from the tourist industry.
We've taken major hits this year.
I've been fortunate enough to have many tours actually go on the road this year. Many haven't. But even those I've run have had less "butts in seats" on them as we say. Sometimes that means even operating them at a loss. When it comes down to it, aside from all of the economic distress, fuel has been the biggest challenge. Even when we aren't talking about fuel surchages on air, train , or motorcoach. It comes down to how much is in the kitty at the end of the month! It's no wonder we are staying put in Northern California these days(Gas is finaly down to $3.79, and I can't believe I just wrote that).
The fact is that any park who operates this year has to cut severely into their margin, if not at a loss. and without a doubt it was a bad year to open any business relying on tourism.
September 26, 2008 at 11:40 AM · I think it was just a bad idea in all to build the full Hard Rock Park installment the way it was built. The park idea was a relevant idea at the time but put into an irrelevant location. Yes Myrtle Beach has a few busy weeks in the year, among them being spring break when students from all around the northern U.S. and Canada come to visit the city. This still isn't a good enough to keep a theme park afloat for a full business year.

Personally I think, even though there would be much more competition, the park would have done better if it would have been a collaborative installment of Universal Orlando and Hard Rock on the Universal Resort grounds in Florida.
Attendance for sure would have been better since when you are planing your vacation to Orlando and planing on visiting Disney and Universal, you might as well stop by the Hard Rock Park which in this case would have been a third park at Universal Resort. The location would have been more relevant, and the idea would stay relevant.

Take a look at Universal Orlando, they are putting in a new roller coaster in Universal, and what is the theme? Music

I don't know that my idea would do as good as I think it would, but I believe it sure would have done better than the Myrtle Beach location.

It's just sad to see a potentially great park go under.

September 26, 2008 at 2:01 PM · Told ya so. [Six Flags Over Georgia offers free tickets for HRP passholders.]

Another thing to consider: Obviously, what HRP offered this year wasn't enough to keep the park out of the hole. And if anyone thinks next year's economy will be better than this year's, well, sorry, but I hope you brought enough of what you're drinking to share.

So HRP needs a new top-shelf attraction to draw bigger crowds next year, if it is to reopen successfully. But parks in Chapter 11 tend not to have access to the capital they need to build such attractions.

Looks like this one might be done. So... where does the Led Zep B&M end up?

September 26, 2008 at 7:50 PM · Not to be mean about it, but I hope HRP rebounds great and proves you wrong. The attitude of 'I told you so' is a bit childish if you ask me.
September 27, 2008 at 11:56 PM · I was there for the last day of the season. Talked to several employees and saw for myself.

Trip report coming soon.

September 28, 2008 at 10:47 AM · What if the only rock music you like is Pink Floyd? Did they even have a ride based on The Wall? That could have been pretty trippy, but if you are not into rock music that much... A whole park??? How about a Music Park, with a Rock Themed Area, a Country Themed Area, a Classical Themed area...

It amazes me that many roller coaster parks actually close for the Winter when the weather is great, closed on weekdays when the weather is awesome. And close permanently because not enough people showed up...

But Disneyland is open every day, too crowded most of those days, and no one builds parks with quality rides like Disneyland except Disney. Why does no one get that???

Why cant anyone figure out that Disneyland is the most popular park because of really awesome slow rides, dark rides, huge rides with realistic animatronics, good music, and effects throughout? It boggles my mind!!!

September 28, 2008 at 11:16 AM · Jeff,

The park is not all rock. There is a section for country also. The theme does work for a whole park considering there are so many themes you can use for rock music. Not to mention, so many generations of rock too. Out of curiosity, can you please explain how the comparison between HRP and Disney is even a fair comparison?

September 28, 2008 at 12:21 PM · From a local non-theme park background perspective...

The Hard Rock Park was a good "start" of a theme park. Where (I think) management and marketing went wrong, though...

1. They didn't market at ALL in Myrtle Beach's "drive-in" markets. Folks who visit Myrtle Beach come from Columbia, Greenville, Spartanburg, SC, Augusta and Savannah, Ga., Charlotte, Fayatteville, Raleigh and Greensboro, NC, plus a LARGE contingent of folks from West Verginia and western Pennsylvania. There was no marketing of the park in these markets, until it was too late into the travel season. Knowing the Myrtle Beach tourism market better would've helped.

2. They snubbed the local community far too much; not having a local discount and cutting the hours of local kids working there BEFORE cutting international kids was horrible p.r. Having a "sneak preview" weekend where locals could see the unfinished park (with MANY un-rideable rides) for "only" $40 in late April did nothing to convince locals that the park was worth $40 admission - let ALONE the $50 ticket the HRP was hell-bent on charging.

3. Which leads us to the price-tag; $50 per person per-day was WAY too much for a theme park without a larger compliment of rides and attractions; and I'm not just talking about rollercoasters, either. I could SEE $50 per person per day if each day there was a major concert act performing in the venue each day, too. That IS, after all part of the "theme" of the "theme park," right? Which leads me to entertainment...

4. There weren't enough big-name acts brought into the park to convince the everyday tourist that $50 was a worthy price of admission. This year's lineup included (not counting the $250 Eagles or Moody Blues dates, because those were seperate events with higher ticket fees)... K.C. & the Sunshine Band, Sister Hazle, Kid Rock, Bowling For Soup. My memory doesn't allow me to remember ALL the "marginal" or "big name" acts they brought, but I'm not forgetting many. They missed out on hosting the VANS Warped Tour when it was available for 'em, and I'd heard through the grapevine that the HRP turned them down because they didn't think they'd be able to handle a large-scale concert like that. Excuse me? That's what your "theme" park was supposed to be all about. Rock. Music. Entertainment. Folks gladly paid $50 and more to go to concerts - TENS of thousands attended the Warped Tour in Charlotte. The HRP never once (that I can recall) had a "tens of thousands" day this summer, though they "projected" 20,000 per day capabilities.

The park itself, isn't all that bad, really. There are enough rides for kids and teens, and it could stand to add another marquee coaster or two (another $20-40 million for such rides would TRULY upgrade the place), but all-in-all, the rides were good, and the shows were, too. But the HRP kept reminding us they were't a "ride" park, but a "theme" park, and that being the case, there wasn't enough "rock" in the Hard "Rock" Park to live up to their "theme."

I hope they bounce back and find the infusion of cash they need to bring this park up-to-snuff; they have a good product that needs to be just a "little" better, I think; their marketing COMPLETELY let them down, though, and their management should listen more to those who know better than they do in matters like 'what works in Myrtle Beach,' 'where Myrtle Beach visitors come from,' 'what ticket fees work and what fees don't,' and most importantly, listen to your theme park veterans on-staff. Many who knew this park's shortcomings all along are no longer with you, but they were sounding the alarms early on, and most of them were ignored or pushed out of the way.

Best of luck!

September 30, 2008 at 6:22 AM · Hard Rock Park..good idea gone bad! But heres what suprises me. How did the Hard Rock parent company allow it to happen? Youd figure they want to preserve the brand? So they should have had some control over it form the get go. Dont yea think?
And ignoring your community? Very bad idea. Great Adventure when we opnned it back in the beginning had a day were they mailed out tickets to every address in Jackson,NJ. And gave the folks a kinda thank-you for your support. Provided them with food and beverage, treats. And thanked them for being Great Adventures form the very start. Nice touch by the builder Hardwicke Subsideries, And creator Warner LeRoy.
But, like the builders of Jazzland in New Orleans, They got greedy! And tried to hard and attemped to do to much to fast and be all things to all people...Take your time plan it right and they will come...Oh and by the way weres the reserve operational monies? Theres a lot of stories, about how the ride builders when cllled out to preform hardware in the attractions computer systems shut them down and locked out there control panals till the bills got paid1 Opps!
Also let me ask why the need to build there or four heavey themmed coasters? Led Zepplin could have carried it for the first season. Then added more as time and minies allowed.
These are just my thoughts. I do wish them the best! and as with any park I wan them to make it work..But jsut a thought get it together first beofre you open the gates...Listen to the people you hire, there there because of what they know. After all this is there jobns and there good at it...Let them run the show and youll have a hit!

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