In the early 2000s, Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, found itself at the center of a musical revolution with the ambitious plan to build Hard Rock Park, a theme park dedicated to celebrating the spirit of rock 'n' roll. However, despite grand aspirations and a promising start, the park's journey was cut short. By the park’s fifth anniversary of its opening, all the rides would be gone, and the park would be left abandoned. Join us as we explore where it all went wrong for Hard Rock Park.
The planning phase of Hard Rock Park began in the early 2000s when owner of Renaissance Entertainment, Jon Binkowski, had a plan to save a theater he owned in the tourist heavy city of Myrtle Beach. The theater which sat adjacent to a large patch of empty land was struggling to bring in enough revenue, and Binkowski envisioned an amusement park that would set Myrtle Beach apart as a prime tourist destination and bring new life to his struggling theater.
Binkowski would eventually partner with businessman Steven Goodwin. After initial plans for the park to be themed to the seasons and again to movies did not work out, Binkowski and Goodwin decided on a park themed similarly to Hard Rock Café. It took a few years to secure investors and the money needed to build the park, but in 2006 a deal was made with the Hard Rock franchise to build a theme-park with the Hard Rock name. Coincidentally, this would occur only two days before the theater that started it all would enter foreclosure. Groundbreaking for Hard Rock Park occurred in July of 2006.
With a budget of over $300 million, the park was designed to feature various rock genres, with rides, attractions, and live performances paying homage to iconic bands and artists. The park's design aimed to immerse visitors in a multisensory experience of rock 'n' roll culture.
Visitors could explore different zones such as "British Invasion," "Lost in the '70s," and "Born in the USA," each offering a unique musical journey. The attention to detail and dedication to the theme was impeccable, and Hard Rock Park had all the ingredients of a great theme park. The park opened officially in June of 2008. The park also featured 5 coasters and several other rides, as well as a “Bohemian Rhapsody” light, fireworks, and water show to end the night.
The park had rides and attractions manufactured by some of the biggest names in the amusement park industry. Sally Dark Rides manufactured the incredible “Knights in White Satin: The Trip” multisensory dark ride. Coaster manufacturer Vekoma would build two coasters including a mine train coaster called “Eagles Life in the Fast Lane” and the “Shake, Rattle, & Roller Coaster” kiddie coaster.
Premier Rides, who is responsible for many popular coasters and attractions also added two roller coasters. “Maximum RPM!” was a racing-racing themed steel coaster that featured a Ferris wheel lift hill. “Slippery When Wet” was the second Premier Rides coaster and was an interactive suspended coaster where riders would be sprayed by water cannons.
The icon of the park however, was the Bolliger & Mabillard steel coaster, “Led Zepplin: The Ride” which stood 150 feet tall and included six inversions. All of the coasters featured on-board audio as well. The coasters would eventually be sold to the Vietnam Sun World parks, but only three are operating today.
Despite positive reviews for its innovative concepts and attractions, attendance numbers fell far short of expectations, exacerbating the park's financial woes as it faced bankruptcy before the end of its first season. The initial dream of a rock 'n' roll heaven began to unravel...