Season Pass Podcast: Jon Binkowski – Creating Hard Rock Park

Written by Doug Barnes. Posted in Features, Other Destinations, Podcasts, SeaWorld San Diego, The Seasonpass Podcast

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Published on September 05, 2013 at 1:00 am with 11 Comments

On today’s Season Pass Podcast we have the CEO of Renaissance Entertainment, Jon Binkowski. He discusses the start of his career at SeaWorld, starting Renaissance Entertainment, becoming the CCO of the most famous “Unfortunate” Theme Park in U.S. history-Hard Rock Park.

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Jon explains the creative process and business behind the creation of the infamous park, plus what has happened since the fall.  An amazing look into the man who had the right dream at the wrong time.

About Doug Barnes

Doug Barnes is a Life Long Fan of Theme Parks and Roller Coasters as well as a fan of Podcasting. Doug has spent his entire life living and meandering under the California sky; regularly attending many parks including Disneyland, DCA, Universal Studios Hollywood, Knott's Berry Farm, Six Flags Magic Mountain, Six Flags Discovery Kingdom (AKA-Marine World), California's Great America (AKA-PGA), and more. Doug has toured all over the country in search of Great Themed Recreational Fun including Florida, Ohio, Texas, Nevada, Indiana, Virginia, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Missouri & more. Aside from his duties as master of ceremonies for the MiceChat Podcast, Doug owns the critically acclaimed Season Pass Podcast: http://www.seasonpasspodcast.com/

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  • ralfrick

    Sure would be useful to have a direct link to download this here instead of having to go to the SP website. Something to consider.

  • Eric Davis

    This was an INCREDIBLE interview! WOW! Talk about really owning up to your personal victories and failures. Really impressed. I wish I could have gone to the HardRock park now!

    • http://www.seasonpasspodcast.com/ Doug Barnes

      Right? It’s the ultimate story of Build It… and sometimes they WON’T come. I can’t imagine the struggles Jon went through after the fall of his vision, but he has taken it in full stride. Quite an amazing story.

      -Doug

  • http://micechat.com Dusty Sage

    This is another fantastic show. I’d put this on the list of shows (along with the Tony Baxter) that aspiring young theme park designers need to listen to.

    • http://www.seasonpasspodcast.com/ Doug Barnes

      I could not agree more Dusty. I was completely inspired by Jon and his story. ;)

  • CaptainSmollett

    I was fortunate enough to experience Hard Rock Park before it closed. Given my appreciation for all things rock n’ roll, I thought it was a positively brilliant concept, but the execution could have been better. I also remember how empty it was, which was a shame. Nevertheless, I will say that Nights in White Satin: The Trip is THE best dark ride I have ever ridden, and I cannot express how dearly I miss it. If you haven’t heard of this ride, Google it, guys.

    • http://www.seasonpasspodcast.com/ Doug Barnes

      It’s the only trip I look back on and wish I bit the bullet and went. It was a theme I absolutely love and I will always kick myself for not going. Great to hear that you had that chance to experience it and your feelings on NIWS: The Trip…A very common opinion. Thanks for sharing. ;)

      -Doug

  • Amy VandenBoogert

    I really wish I could have experienced this park before it closed. I have friends who were lucky to go and they really enjoyed themselves. It’s sad the park is just sitting there abandoned now. Ironically, I remember in the 80s and early 90s visiting the Wacamaw Pottery/outlet mall that was where the park currently sits when we took a few vacations to Myrtle Beach. Those were some of the best vacations ever.

    The story behind how the park was built and it’s successes and failures is really extraordinary and a story that ANYONE who loves theme parks should know.

    • http://www.seasonpasspodcast.com/ Doug Barnes

      Agreed! Imagineering was speaking about “Celebrate Your Spectacular Failures” at D23 Expo this year. The entire themed entertainment is celebrating the failure of Hard Rock Park, because all of the teams who worked on HRP, have turned around and created greatness somewhere else. A ton of lessons learned.

      -Doug

  • MickeyFickey

    I got the chance to go in 2008. My little brother and I did a quick little 2-day excursion down to Carowinds and then Hard Rock Park. We only had about 4-5 hours in the park before we had to start driving back to Norfolk, VA, but the little bit of time we got to spend in the park was wonderful. Nights in White Satin was an AMAZING dark ride, from the little I remember of the one ride I got on it. Led Zeppelin was a blast and we rode it at least 10 times, though the whole having to walk 8 miles through the queue and wait for the pre-show thing got old fast. The Karaoke Queue Line for Maximum RPM! was clever, and the theming was pretty witty and impressive throughout the park. I do remember that the park was overpriced (even with the military discount they gave both my brother and I–even though I was only a civilian), deserted, and lacking in attractions.

    Man, if only this place had been able to hang on for just another 2-3 years, build a following, market the heck out of itself, and get a few more rides installed…it would be a powerhouse park today! My hopes are that SOMEHOW Hard Rock Park gets reincarnated in another location, but I doubt that will happen.

    Great podcast!

    • http://www.seasonpasspodcast.com/ Doug Barnes

      Yeah, I hear that the park was definitely lacking attractions, and who knows, that may be a small piece to the puzzle of why it didn’t succeed. However, like you said, a few attractions like NIWS: The Trip and Led Zepplin were special. Glad to hear you had the chance to visit. Obviously a trip you will always remember and a rare story to share too.

      BTW- Thanks for the kind words. ;)

      -Doug