Theme Park of the Day: Disney's Animal Kingdom

Hard Rock Park sold to FPI MB Entertainment for $25 million*

February 16, 2009, 6:02 PM · * Updated throughout: A bankruptcy judge today approved the sale of the closed and bankrupt Hard Rock Park to FPI MB Entertainment.

The deal is for $25 million - quite a discount from the $400 million the park reportedly cost to build. The judge said that a competing bid from a new group calling itself Coastal Entertainment, came with "too little, too late," according to a live blog from the courtroom on the Myrtle Beach Online site.

We did a little digging into FPI's background last week. The sale is to close by Thursday, and we're awaiting word if FPI can reach a deal with Hard Rock International before then, to preserve the park's branding. If they can't, FPI will have to rebrand the park and destroy all unsold Hard Rock-branded park merchandise.

Update: FPI MB Entertainment has confirmed that Baker Leisure Group will manage operations at the park. (We first reported the connection between FPI MB Entertainment and Baker here on TPI last week.)
In the previous version of this post, we asked readers whom they'd like to see get control of the site. Now that the sale is approved to FPI, tell us what you think.

Replies (8)

February 16, 2009 at 6:09 PM · Baker Entertainment. He seemed to do well with World Showcase! Need some Disney umpf into this project (I know he does not work for Disney anymore)
February 17, 2009 at 6:43 AM · Hopefully, a group gets the park that knows what the heck to do with it. So, here's hoping someone makes the right choice.
February 17, 2009 at 10:37 AM · I find this funny, and I hate to say I told you so. Up until a month ago, nobody (besides me it seems) wanted anything to do with this place. Now all of the sudden there's a three way war going on for it.

It seems that Hard Rock Corporation also wants nothing to do with the company set to buy the park. They've petitioned the courts to block the sale because they don't want their license transferred to the company who is buying the park, however their position is this...quote from the Sun Times.

"Hard Rock Cafe International, however, is "willing to discuss the possibility of entering into a new license agreement and memorabilia lease with a buyer that it believes is a suitable operator and owner of the Park," court documents state."

That means that Hard Rock isn't interesting in doing business with FPI MB Entertainment, but is interested in "other parties". All I'm saying is that it's pretty uncanny timing. A company called Coastal Entertainment is formed less than a week ago (in the state where the bankruptcy hearing is taking place) and on Monday, both they and Hard Rock Corporation file objections to the sale. Call me crazy, and I guess I could just be seeing things...

In any event, I'm glad that someone is stepping up to the plate and buying this place. If they really know what they are doing, they will reap a golden harvest in the future.

February 17, 2009 at 1:05 PM · A park has to have a theme to be a viable destination attraction, one that will draw people from more than two-three hours' drive away. Take a look at the list of most popular parks in North America at the right. You have to go all the way down to Cedar Point before you find an unthemed park in the U.S.

And Cedar Point has 100 years' worth of goodwill built up in the Cleveland market, as well as the world's best collection of roller coasters. Yet even with that going for it, the park's attendance over the past few years has seen it slipping down this list.

Hard Rock is an internationally known brand. Unfortunately, it is also an older-skewing brand, and a dying brand. Obviously, the brand was not enough for the park to overcome its management and marketing problems in year one.

Still, I fear that the park might have no future without a brand and the creative vision that comes with it. A new, generic, seasonal amusement park in the U.S. will not attract more than 1.5 million visitors a year. And that's best-case scenario, assuming affordable pricing and aggressive promotion.

This park needs a brand, if not Hard Rock, then something. It needs a creative vision. Otherwise, this park is destined to be, at best, a local amusement, sparsely attended and not worthy of national attention.

February 17, 2009 at 1:21 PM · The only bad news I see here (which somewhat echo's Robert's comments above) is that the new owners are dead set on adding new rides before their Memorial Day opening. I am no ride designer, but I fear the quick fix they are shooting for will lead to the addition of several off-the-shelf midway rides common to most carnivals and state fairs (and Six Flags parks). If the new owners go down that road, then the long term outlook for this park is grim. Slamming in a couple of midway rides to beef up the attraction list is a huge mistake. The new owners need to bite the bullet and operate at a loss this season, and really take time to plan for future expansion. As Robert stated previously, I would hate for HRP to become just another small market, midway mecca.
February 17, 2009 at 9:37 PM · I agree as well about the rides. Although the park could really use some more rides, it should be about quality instead of quantity. They could still somehow use the music theme without the Hard Rock brand. Aside from the merchandise, memorabilia, and signage, I'm not sure what else HRC really brought to the table. If they did keep the music theme, they could maintain ties with the bands and entities that are currently being used in the park and keep the rides intact, although I'm not sure it's necessary to do that. Quite simply though, the new owners probably won't reach a deal with HRC, but they honestly don't need Hard Rock to do a music themed park. I think it's best to keep intact what they can and build on it with regard to quality.

Think about this...they bought this place for 25 million free of liens. That's a yard sale price, and if they are mindful of operating costs, they could have a bad year and still break even or come out ahead depending on the financing. Because they got it for so cheap and because it's still brand new and needs next to nothing to open the doors, they also could have the ability to absolutely pour money into expansion and improvement. It all depends on the company and it's intentions.

I would love to see them continue the course of building a theme park, and I think that they should do that, but they could just as easily go the route of amusement park. Not a popular thing to do on this site, but not necessarily a bad idea as long as they focus on quality attractions. I'll take a good amusement park over no park anyday.

February 18, 2009 at 9:32 AM · As one of the 3 HRP fans on TPI I am THRILLED that this park will reopen although it will look very different from the park I visited last May.

My biggest question at this point is whether or not TPI MB will be able to keep the licensing deals with Led Zepplin, The Eagles, and The Moody Blues to keep their names on their signature rides.

My next biggest question is where do I apply for a job with the park?

February 20, 2009 at 12:17 PM · I'm attending a reunion in Myrtle Beach from September 24-27. I hope they are still open.

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