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Arthur Levine

Hard Rock Park Seeks White Knight

By November 3, 2008

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Is the trip over for Nights in White Satin- The Trip? The signature dark ride is part of Hard Rock Park, the music-themed park that opened in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina with a heavy-metal bang in April and closed with a soft-rock whimper in September. Faced with disappointing attendance and mounting debt, the new park filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy and vowed to reorganize and reopen for the 2009 season. Late last week, however, Hard Rock Park's owners said they now hope to sell the park before the end of the year, according to the The Sun News. Otherwise, the park would not reopen.

I'd imagine a buyer would step forward. Then again, I imagined that the $400-million property, which I believed was a compelling, fully realized park with a strong brand and an appealing theme in a highly trafficked vacation destination, was destined to be a success. I still maintain that with the right marketing, a few more attractions, and more realistic ticket prices, Hard Rock Park could yet be a success. But, given the tough economy, would a potential suitor be able to cobble together the financing and have the stomach to weather an iffy tourist industry?

What do you think? Will "Nights" remain dark, or will new owners reopen Hard Rock Park? State your thoughts by clicking on "Comments" below.

Photo: Don't let the sun go down on me. Led Zeppelin- The Ride, the featured coaster at Hard Rock Park, strikes a mighty pose at dusk. Arthur Levine 2008. Licensed to About.com.
Comments
November 5, 2008 at 10:43 am
(1) Robert says:

The Hard Rock Park in Myrtle Beach failed for several reasons that can all neatly fall under the umbrella of hubris. As a local resident involved for many years in the marketing and management of the tourism/hospitality industry – from my perspective they really seemed to believe – ‘if they build it – people will come’.

However, under that premise they made several fatal mistakes:

1. They did not market to the local marketplace until it was too late. There were no local discounts until they realized people were not coming. They did not reach out to the local tourism industry until summer was in full swing. As late as June – the local school districts were shipping students to Charlotte (4+ hours away) to go to an amusement park. They should have taken a page out of the Dixie Stampede marketing book and worked the locals hard.
2. No concerts! How can an theme park based on music have three concerts all summer? There should have been 2 concerts per week. If the House of Blues can average 4 per week – than the Hard Rock Park should be able to have at least one.
3. Rides – the big draw rides were not operational till mid to late June. Too late – too many people had already come and been disappointed. Too much bad publicity.
4. Prices – the prices for 8 adult rides rivaled Disney World. Someone should have realized that in Myrtle Beach it would be about volume. This is truly a budget driven market – not many people come here – planning on spending $200-$300 for one day with a family of 4. When you have to accept credit cards in the soda vending machines – you have an issue with pricing.
5. Advertising – it is quite apparent that they found an out of market advertising agency since the advertising (tv/radio/print) did not appeal to the Myrtle Beach demographics. I am sure their marketing busget was huge – but they should have at least hired a local consultant.
6. Location – I realize land is at a premium in Myrtle Beach – but they built in the last place in the area I would put an attraction. There is no easy way in or out of that location especially on weekends where traffic could be backed up for hours just trying to get in or out of Myrtle Beach.
7. Location 2 – The curb of appeal of a empty outlet mall directly in front of the park as seen from the main highway does not produce a very inviting feeling.

If someone (Six Flags, Disney, other) does buy the park – they could succeed but they will need to spend money. They will need to use local expertise. They will need to be creative.

November 5, 2008 at 1:00 pm
(2) themeparks says:

Robert-

Thanks for your comments. Obviously HRP was not successful, but some of the reasons you cite aren’t quite right.

There was plenty of live music, including a number of major and second-tier acts. Also, most of the rides, with the exception of two, were operational when the park opened. As to the location, one of the principals of the park already owned some of the property, and the existing infrastructure made it an appealing parcel for development. If everything else was in place, I truly believe the location would have been incidental.

Your thoughts about marketing, prices, and advertising, however, are dead-on.

-Arthur

May 4, 2009 at 4:03 pm
(3) rick says:

I was there early in season and was really supprized with the lack of big name rock bands for at least the opening just look at the names for the hard rock resturant in myrtle beach hard during its first summer its all about the shows to just look at what dolly parton done with what was silver dollar city in tennessee shows shows shows

May 4, 2009 at 4:08 pm
(4) themeparks says:

Thanks for writing Rick. The Eagles and the Moody Blues were the official opening acts for Hard Rock Park– pretty big names, I’d say.

-Arthur

February 28, 2010 at 5:39 pm
(5) Ms.HEARTBROKEN says:

If they change anything about this park, I will cry. I’m 18, I went when I was 17, huge classic rock fan. This park was amazing, The Trip was INCREDIBLE, if they change ANYTHING about this ride or park, I’d be so sad not many people got to see it. I thought the concept and outcome was perfect, nothing should be changed, I know I’m a little late on my thoughts but I would have totally started something over this.

April 22, 2013 at 5:49 pm
(6) Chris Abernathy says:

I lived at the beach and worked at a resort that gave all employees full admissions to the park for free,everything was free parking and all,we went constantly rode the” zeppelin”,this was an awesome roller coaster and I wish I had the money to open it,I promise it would work…….

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