Well, given the events of last Friday, I suppose it's time to do a closing on South Carolina's biggest white elephant. That's the date that Hard Rock Park "chose" to move from Chapter 11 reorganization to Chapter 7 liquidation. Why?
The park, which said it was worth $400 million when it opened in April, was unable to attract any bidders willing to pay at least $35 million for the park at a Dec. 15 auction, according to court documents.
I find that amazing, even with all the other financial beef-wittery that has come to light lately. The Sun News's stories on the park are filled with comments from the locals to the effect that they could have told the owners what was going to happen, although it also appears that many people did tell them. One of the articles (which I don't have a link to right now) detailed the park's origins: Apparently the pitchmen were thrown for a loop when they were told that the Hard Rock empire was approachable for branding the rock-and-roll park they were pitching. The problem was that they weren't pitching a rock-and-roll park, but a "standard" amusement park, and weren't planning to pitch to Hard Rock, but they brainstormed some rock-related ride names on a lunch napkin and sold the concept. That's the kind of story that becomes a legend if a venture succeeds, and a cautionary tale if it doesn't...
In the event it seemed that the owners were better at promoting to corporations than to tourists, and aside from the unforseeable blunder of trying to launch a venture in the annus horribilis of 2008, they priced tickets too high ($50 + $10 parking), didn't advertise, and didn't promote with local hotels.
I had two chances to visit the park. The first was on the Fourth of July 2008, when I was taking pictures of Waccamaw Pottery. As I was standing in the parking lot, I could see the Led Zeppelin roller-coaster running in the distance, but it was about lunch time, and after that, I ended of taking a helicopter ride over the beach instead. I also had a week to myself at the beach in August, and thought about taking in the park then, but it was hot, I didn't feel like getting on 501 in tourist season, and I figured it would be better in October, but that was not to be as the doors closed in September.
Oh well, it's only rock and roll!
UPDATE: Here's a link from commenter "Beach Guy" that has the origin details I mentioned.
UPDATE 19 Feb 2009: Son of a gun! Somebody bought the thing and is going to run it!
UPDATE 29 March 2010: Well, the above UPDATE was for Freestyle Music Park which I have just added to the post title and which apparently will manage just one year of operation as well. The news today is not good..
UPDATE 23 Sep 2010: Well this has been an ongoing saga, but the short story is that Freestyle never re-opened, and was foreclosed upon earlier this year. This has led to a lot of legal wrangling as different creditors jockey for position. As of now, the park is still intact (and still quixotically seeking investors), but that may change soon.
Some creditors are now accusing the park owners of being crooks instead of just inept:
The Sun News of Myrtle Beach reported Saturday that four companies challenging a foreclosure lawsuit filed responses in court saying the mortgage holder and the owner of Freestyle Music Park are actually the same entity.
"We think that there was an element of fraud involved in establishing the mortgage in the first place," said Audra Byrd, an attorney representing Brandon Advertising Inc. in Myrtle Beach. "We think it was created to shield the company from having to pay its creditors."
In addition, one creditor has claimed that since its property is uninsured and unsecured in the face of possible hurricanes, it should get to remove it *now*:
VenCore Solutions requested an order to take immediate possession of the items, stating that the property was in immediate danger of destruction.
The Oregon-based company had leased a wide variety of items to Freestyle, from shelving units to radios.
The lawyer for FPI MB Entertainment, Freestyle's owner, wrote a letter to VenCore confirming that the property "is currently uninsured and not subject to a hurricane contingency plan," according to an affidavit from James Paul Johnson, VenCore's Chief Operating Officer.
The judge granted the order on Sept. 8.
The second link also has a nice timeline of the park's recent woes.
UPDATE 4 Aug 2011: Hope springs eternal -- the Sun News reports the park's mortgage holder has taken possession and wants to reopen the park. Somehow.
UPDATE 16 August 2014: The Sun News reports that the remaining rides from Hardrock/Freestyle are being dismantled and shipped to Viet Nam for an amusement park there. (This is after some were sold locally to Family Kingdom). To me the big news here is that Viet Nam has amusement parks. Good for them! Maybe we won in the end after all. It does kind of boggle the mind that dismantling, shipping and re-asembling the rides that far makes economic sense..
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