Abandoned Theme Park
Updated: Jan 2
Hard Rock Park
Freestyle Music Park
Myrtle Beach, SC
Hard Rock Park sign
Development of Hard Rock Park
Plans for a Hard Rock-themed amusement park were released in 2003, but at the time funding and licensing agreements had yet to be finalized. A feasibility study predicted 3 million visitors a year in the park's first year, with growth of nine percent the second year and decreasing growth rates after that.
By 2006, a licensing agreement with the Hard Rock franchise was reached. The Hard Rock name was licensed from Seminole Nation–owned Hard Rock International, current owners/operators of the Hard Rock Cafe brand, to HRP Myrtle Beach Operations, LLC, which designed and built the park, for a fee of $2.5 million per year.
Hard Rock Park was officially announced in early 2007. Construction for the park took place in 2007.
2008 season: Hard Rock Park
The grand opening celebration as Hard Rock Park on June 2, 2008, featured a concert by Eagles and The Moody Blues. The park featured six "rock environs" celebrating rock's culture, lifestyle, legends and irreverence.
All Access Entry Plaza - What would a Hard Rock Park be without retail shops? This was the place to make impulse purchases on the way in and out of the park.
Cool Country - It's only natural that a park in the South, even one that's focused on rock and roll, would have tipped its cowboy hat to country-rock music. It featured Eagles Life in the Fast Lane, a mine train-style family coaster.
Rock & Roll Heaven - This area was dedicated to Jimi Hendrix, John Lennon, and other rock legends who were no longer cranking it up to 11. Curiously, it included a reggae-themed interactive water play structure and a Malibu Beach Party diving and stunt show.
British Invasion - The Beatles, Stones, The Who, and more modern-day UK artists got their due here. This was the most lavishly themed area of the park. It featured Led Zeppelin- The Ride, a world-class thrill ride with a wild Led Zeppelin overlay. This is where the Nights in White Satin Ride was located as well. There was also a unique roller coaster that used a Ferris wheel-like launch system.
Lost in the 70s was an indoor area that used the decade's dubious mix of disco, punk, and glam music as its backdrop. This was the least lavishly themed area of the park. It included Alice's Restaurant, the park's full-service eatery that served Thanksgiving dinner and clam chowder. (Never mind that the Arlo Guthrie song on which it was based, was released in 1967, and not the 1970s.)
Born in the USA celebrated US-bred rockers (who were presumably not dead, didn't record in the 70s, and had nothing to do with country music). Among its attractions was Slippery When Wet, an inverted coaster with onboard water cannons.
The park opened to positive reviews. Hard Rock Park had stated the park could accommodate up to 30,000 visitors a day, and in light of the frozen credit markets during the financial crisis of 2007–2008, the park could not secure sufficient finance to underwrite its planned advertising campaign. As the 2008 economic downturn deepened during the summer, high gas and hotel prices coupled with limited advertising by the park led to lower-than-expected attendance.
Changes were made to operating hours and planned operating days. With an earlier end-of-season planned on November 2, the park scheduled no concerts past August 30.
Early closure, bankruptcy and new owners
In September 2008, HRP investor Africa Israel Investments decided to write off its entire $10 million investment in the park "due to liquidity difficulties the park is experiencing". Hard Rock Park then announced that they were ending the 2008 season over a month early, laying off most of the employees, and had filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. At the time of the filing, the park expressed hopes of reopening in 2009; the following month the company announced plans to sell the park. In January 2009, the company converted to Chapter 7.
In February 2009, the sale of the park to FPI MB Entertainment (FPI) for $25 million.
On April 2, 2009, the new owners announced that the Hard Rock name would be dropped. Because of the name change, the bankruptcy court required all Hard Rock merchandise to be destroyed.
Later that month, FPI unveiled a new name for the park: Freestyle Music Park, stating that it would pay homage to a variety of musical genres, including rock n' roll, country, reggae, beach music, pop, R&B, alternative, Christian, disco, and rap.
On June 22, 2009, the county planning commission agreed to change the name of Hard Rock Parkway to Fantasy Harbour Boulevard.
2009 season: Freestyle Music Park
The park reopened on May 23, 2009, with adult admission reduced. Additionally, the park offered three separate promotions during the 2009 summer season. As a result of these discounts, the park also made less money than hoped.
Aside from the renaming of the overall park, sections of the park also got new names; "Myrtle's Beach" (previously "Rock 'N' Roll Heaven") became a "tongue-in-cheek celebration of all things Polynesian," "Born in the USA" became "Kids in America," "British Invasion" became "Across the Pond," and "Cool Country" became "Country USA." The entrance changed names from "All Access Entry Plaza" to "VIP Plaza". FPI also introduced Kids in America, a 17,000-square-foot (1,600 m2) children's section with four rides named after hit songs purchased from Zamperla of Italy.
Further problems and subsequent closure
Throughout the season, a series of lawsuits were filed against the park, adding to the park's woes. In October 2009, FPI announced that they had lined up some new investors to help the park pay its debts.
The agreement to purchase Hard Rock Park included paying $570,000 owed by the former park owners. In January 2010, the attorney for Hard Rock Park's trustee allowed an extension on that payment as the park searched for new investors.
In February 2010, FPI attorney Tobey Daluz announced that the park would not open in March 2010 as planned.
On August 9, 2010, foreclosure proceedings were filed against Freestyle Music Park.
In December 2011, FPI US which received the property in an August foreclosure auction, filed papers showing it had mortgaged the property for $20 million, money that the company's attorney was needed for maintenance and other expenses until a sale. Land for a proposed hotel which was never built was later sold in a foreclosure auction on July 2, 2012.
Martin Durham, the park's former vice president for entertainment, said many factors led to the park's demise, but the biggest culprit was the recession that hit right as it opened.
On November 12, 2013, local media reported that Freestyle Music Park was trying to sell off many of the rides from the venture. This was despite earlier rumors that Baker had plans to move the Freestyle rides to a park he planned to open in Orlando, Florida. In late July 2014, dismantling and removal of the other rides began. As of August 11, 2014, it was reported that other rides were being shipped out of the US, possibly to Vietnam. As of February 2015, all of the rides had been dismantled.
On February 20, 2014, The Sun News reported that Medieval Times Dinner & Tournament bought roughly four acres of the park which it used prior to 2008 for its horses to exercise and graze.
Sale of former park property
On January 1, 2019, it was reported that the former Hard Rock/Freestyle Music Park property of approximately 125.14 acres as well as several other parcels was sold for $3,545,000. The future of the property is currently unknown though the land is currently zoned as a planned development district, so it a prime spot for potential development that could include housing or even another tourist attraction.
On February 17, 2019 fire official were called just before midnight to the former Hard Rock/Freestyle Music Park for a three-alarm fire. At about 3:00 a.m the fire was out and investigators were working the scene and the cause of the blaze was not immediately known, but was later deemed suspicious by fire investigators and local police.
On June 30, 2019, a debris/structure fire broke out at the former amusement park and a preliminary investigation by fire officials show that the two separate fires were not "of an accidental ignition." A witness told police that they saw smoke coming from the park and that they saw a group of people leaving the site and was able to provide police with a license number, but nobody has been arrested in connection to the case and police continue to investigate.
On September 6, 2019 at 5:20 am, fire officials responded to a reported commercial structure fire, with the fire being in a former ticket booth area near where one of the parks entrances used to be and flames were visible upon arrival, but the fire was under control within about 30 minutes and there no reported injuries. There currently are no indications that the fire was suspicious, and is currently under investigation.
Check out this YouTube video on the park https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Kv7Xqz0Xo5Q