Hard Rock Park Turns into Just Plain Hard Luck

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Who knew that so few people in Myrtle Beach would be willing to shell out $40 or so to visit a rock and roll theme park? But apparently, nine months after raising over $400 million the owners of Hard Rock Park are giving up. They couldn’t have opened at a worse time, said Liz Gilland, a local official in the area.

The park licensed the name from the Hard Rock Cafes, which have struggled mightily in recent years. They put up a 60-foot high guitar, and had a roller coaster that was tested and approved by the surviving members of Led Zeppelin.

An article in today’s WSJ described other attractions that will no longer be open to the public. One is a wooden roller coaster that wasn’t as intense as the Zep ride, called The Eagles–Life in the Fast Lane, and AlicĂ©’s restaurant, named after the song of course.

They got excellent press, and the state was gung ho as the park opened last April. But they had to borrow so much cash that the annual interest payments were $24 million, and they took in only $20 million in ticket sales for the whole nine months. Now the city is worried about who will pay to change the name of the four-lane highway that goes to the lake the park sits around.

I keep wondering…what do you do with such an edifice, if you can’t charge admission any more? What do you do to reuse this, the single largest tourism investment in South Carolina’s history? For now the owners have to battle the Hard Rock company in court, who say that its failure has damaged their reputation. And they want Garth Brook’s $746 cowboy hat back too.