Hard Rock Park
Martin Durham gets tired of hearing the same old questions about the Hard Rock Park.
Durham, the park’s operations manager, can’t go anywhere in Myrtle Beach without running into skeptics.
Many Myrtle Beach-area residents question the validity of a major theme park after several false starts with developers who couldn’t pull off their plans, most recently the Timberland Properties Inc., or TPI, park at the former Myrtle Beach Air Force Base.
Durham has spent a lot of time trying to quash concerns, reassuring naysayers that the $400 million park — touted as the largest single tourism investment in South Carolina — will greet its first guests in 2008. The bumps in the road, mainly delays caused by struggles to get enough money, are past, he said.
“We are officially turning dirt,” Durham said. “It took four years to put it together, but it’s all worked out for the best.”
Durham hopes today’s flashy, Hard Rock-style groundbreaking party — complete with a three-story sand sculpture — will help settle lingering questions.
By year’s end, those curious about the park will be able to stop by a center on the property to view a model, Durham said.
The Hard Rock Park, the first theme park using the popular rock ’n’ roll brand, will outsize Carowinds, the 108-acre park that straddles the Carolinas border near Charlotte.
Others aren’t convinced that the Hard Rock Park can pull off a year-round operation in a place that lives at the mercy of the summer season.
TPI also had a groundbreaking event, but filed bankruptcy and never opened a park after much hoopla in the late 1990s.
Then there’s the question: Is the beach ready for a major theme park?
“The easy answer is we are about to find out,” said Brad Dean, president of the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce.
“You’ve got to get bulldozers moving and bring it to fruition ... All fingers are crossed that it is going to work well.”
STILL A MYSTERY
Much about what will go in the Hard Rock Park still is a mystery.
The park will have 40 attractions in six zones, including a roller coaster, restaurants, stores and an amphitheater.
But officials haven’t given details or released recent renderings.
What bands will lend their names to rides? Which musicians will play at the amphitheater? How much will tickets cost?
The developer, HRP Myrtle Beach Operations LLC, isn’t saying.
Regardless of what goes in it, the park is the kind of new attraction the Grand Strand needs to bring more crowds and give repeat visitors something new to do, said Gary Loftus, director of Coastal Carolina University’s Center for Economic Development.
“If Disney was showing up there would be skeptics out there,” he said. “I think they are all lined up and ready to go. With the Pavilion closing, the timing could not be better.”