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Hard Rock ain't your Daddy's theme park

Jim Hill

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Hard Rock ain't your Daddy's theme park

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Disney's Hollywood Studios has its Rock 'n' Roller Coaster. SeaWorld has its Shamu Rocks show. And sometime next year, Universal Studios Florida guests will be able to experience the rush of riding on the Hollywood Rip, Ride, Rockit.

But an entire theme park dedicated to rock 'n' roll ? Is the world really ready for that?

Well, ready or not, here comes Hard Rock Park. Though this 140-acre project won't officially open 'til the first week of June, this past Tuesday the folks behind this $400 million development invited the media to come take a peek at the park. And based on what JHM's reps saw ... This place definitely has some possibilities.

Now please keep in mind that Hard Rock Park isn't fully functional yet. Yesterday -- for example -- was the very first day that the Operations staff was able to cycle cars through this theme park's roller soaker, "Slippery When Wet." They're also still trying to work out the kinks (No, not those Kinks) with "Maximum RPM," the world's first roller coaster to use a ferris wheel-type loading system.

But as for the rest of the park ... the vast portion of Hard Rock's rides, shows and attractions will be ready for guests when Myrtle Beach's newest attraction -- as part of its test-and-adjust period -- throws open its doors this morning and experiences its first full day (i.e. 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.) of operations.

"So what's the place like?," you ask. To be honest, the folks behind Hard Rock Park have made some very smart moves. They took the bones of what was already located around Fantasy Lagoon (i.e. the now-defunct Fantasy Harbor entertainment complex as well as the Waccamaw Factory Shoppes) and transformed that into a theme park that's sure to appeal to tourists as well as hardcore music fans.

Mind you, this worksite did give the Hard Rock design team a few challenges. Take -- for example -- the height restrictions on this piece of South Carolina property. Because the old Fantasy Harbor complex was actually in the flight path for Myrtle Beach International Airport ... Well, that meant that no HRP structure could be taller than 15 stories. Or otherwise this theme park would have been in violation of FAA regulations.

But -- of course -- if you're an organization that celebrates rock 'n' roll, you gotta push the envelope a bit. See how close you can get to breaking the rules without actually breaking them. And in the case of "Led Zepplin : The Ride" (i.e. the tallest structure in Hard Rock Park), this coaster is just 13 inches shy of the FAA's maximum-height limit.

Which, as you might imagine, puts a little extra thrill in this thrill ride. Though -- that said -- I seriously doubt that anyone will be able to take time out to look out for low-flying aircraft as they zoom along on "Led Zepplin : The Ride." You see, this looping coaster has six separate inversions and reaches speeds of 65 MPH.

Hard Rock's height restriction problems also seriously challenged the folks who were designing the park's lagoon show. This nighttime water pageant -- which is choreographed to Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody" -- features 137 dancing fountains, fireworks as well as state-of-the-art lasers.

Speaking of those lasers ... Again taking into consideration the safety of those planes that would be flying directly over Hard Rock Park ... Well, the "Bohemian Rhapsody" team had to make sure that none of the the laser lights that are fired out from behind from Hard Rock's signature 70-foot-tall guitar icon as part of the park's nighttime water pageant were aimed straight up into the sky. Which might then result in the temporary blinding of a pilot.

Likewise, the "Bohemian Rhapsody" show only could make use of low level fireworks. Which -- while they still look cool to those standing around Hard Rock Park's 9-acre lagoon -- would never have a negative impact on any flights that were passing overhead.

I know, I know. "Safety" and "consideration" aren't words that one usually associates with rock 'n' roll. But the management team behind Hard Rock Park? It wasn't enough for these guys to just deliver a great show to their paying customers. They also want to be thought of as a good neighbor by the rest of the Myrtle Beach community.

Of course, there was method to their madness. You see, the Hard Rock guys will need Myrtle Beach's co-operation if they're going to pull off some of the future plans that they currently have in the works for this theme park. These include a Halloween hard ticket event that may feature horror mazes that are personally designed by rock legends like Alice Cooper, Rob Zombie and Marilyn Manson.

But all of that stuff ... That's a-ways down the road. For now, the folks at Hard Rock Park are far too busy concentrating on completing the "Sound Check" phase of this project (i.e. that's what they've been calling HRP's soft opening). As they prep for their official grand opening, which will be held on on June 2nd & 3rd and feature concert performances by the Eagles and the Moody Blues.

In the meantime, the Hard Rock design team is concentrating on adding whimsical touches to their park (Like the "Free Air Guitar" stand shown above) as well as making sure that their signature attractions are up to snuff.

And speaking of white powdery substances that one could place in one's nose * ... As you make your way through the queue of "Nights in White Satin: The Trip," there's this moment where an employee hands you a pair of holographic glasses and insists that you put them on immediately.

Why For? Because you're about to enter a room that's been done -- floor-to-ceiling -- in black light paint.

And as you stand there, watching the room throb with color as you experience the stone-cold-sober equivalent of being drugged out of your gourd ... That's when you realize that this ain't your Daddy's theme park.

For further information on Hard Rock Park, please click on this link.

Your thoughts ?

* This year's nominee for "World's Worst Segue" at JHM


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  • Jim said: "And as you stand there, watching the room throb with color as you experience the stone-cold-sober equivalent of being drugged out of your gourd ... That's when you realize that this ain't your Daddy's theme park."

    Hmm, holographic experiences reminiscent of the 1960s with black lights?  I think this very well might be my Daddy's theme park.

  • I just went to the site.  They have four roller coasters, a pretty weak fountain show at night, and that's about it.   There is a 1960s funhouse, but it looks really small.  And, I ask you, how much would you be willing to pay for a day spent on four roller coasters and watching low-altitude fireworks?

    If your answer is less than $54/day, then Hard Rock Park ain't for you.  

    $54/day.  Or a whole year for $162.  Yep, you can go on those same four roller coasters as many times as you want for $162.

    And NO, the $54 does NOT include concerts.

    The only concert I could find ticket information for was the Eagles/Moody Blues event.  And how much do these tickets cost?  (Another drum roll please.)  $284.  And that's the CHEAPEST ticket.  And yes, that's ONE ticket.  But hey, it does also include admission to Hard Rock Park.

    Hmmm, Hard Rock really needs to rethink this plan--unless they hoping people trapped in Myrtle Beach are so bored that they'll shell out $54 to escape the beach for a while.

    Last time in was in South Carolina, people weren't blowing money like it was Vegas.

  • englishboy:   also realize that the Eagles/Moody Blues event is also meant to be a grand-opening event.   So, I doubt that you'll always be seeing those kind of prices on the tickets...

    Also, if you notice the calendar, they do have a concert happening on July 4th that's included in the admission price.   Not everything is planned out for the entire year, but that may be an indication of a lot more of these kinds of included-in-admission concerts will be coming.

    Overall, it seems like it might be a pretty decent start.   The map looks like they will have a lot of room available for expansion (though, does that reflect the park's surroundings?).   There's still a lot of unused space (Ok, the space that the water takes up does seem like much more than they need...).

    In comparison to the offerings of Disneyland on Day 1?   Well, looks like they have Disneyland beat...

    ...of course, this is 2008.   We expect way too much out of new parks these days.

    My big concern:  too much for the younger set.   Already, they have 5 attractions with age maximums of 8 or 12 years old.  Which is including a decent-sized playground in almost every area of the park, a HUGE "Kid's Rock State Park" play area, most rides through the British Invasion and Born in the USA areas are aimed at younger sets...   then there's that Bear Metal Family.

    While the ideal of rides for the family that Disneyland has is a great ideal, I don't see a real rock 'n' roll theme park, especially one based on the themes and bands as this one, to be a great place for the youngest kids...    While they need something, too, it looks like their main concern was to give rides to the kids and theme for the parent's enjoyment.

    I'm not saying to make it no place at all for kids, but I really don't think that Hard Rock Park is going to be the main attraction for kids.   Just based on what they have now, they might have neglected the target audience too much.

    However, it is the first year.    Hopefully, they'll balance this out a lot more and get it more edgy.

    I do want to make a trip there and see it for myself, though.   It seems like it would at least be a fun day.

    And I really want to check out Nights in White Satin: The Trip.    Could this be the most hallucinogenic darkride since Adventure Through Innerspace?

  • Thanks for the article Jim! I haven't been seeing a lot of information on this park, besides Lance's occasional updates on Screamscape. The offerings on opening day seem pretty sparse, but let's hope they get the opportunity to grow. I'm not a big coaster fan, so I echo some of the sentiments on here that fun, family attractions should be their next priority.  

  • Love the "Free Air Guitars".

    This is one place I'd have to visit the next time I'm in the area. I'm a complete sucker for that giant Gibson Les Paul that is Hard Rock.

    Even if the park is marginal in rides, there's enough people around who can't avoid the atmosphere of a Hard Rock Cafe who will at least give this place a try. If I can pay $12 for a marginal hamburger at one of their restaurants, I guess I can pay $54 for a park admission.

    And I'll make sure I take home my souvenier air guitar.

  • This looks like Six Flags Hard Rock to me.

    A lot of steel unthemed coasters and off the shelf carnival type rides.

    I'm sure somebody likes this type of thing, but not Disney fans.

  • Jedited, couldn't have said it better myself.

  • I would like it noted that--now that the park is in Chapter 11--that most people here pointed out that this park was a bad idea last year.

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