Freestyle Music Park

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Freestyle Music Park
Freestyle Music Park logo.svg
Slogan Full Volume Family Fun
Location Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, United States
Coordinates 33°42′50″N 78°56′02″W / 33.714°N 78.934°W / 33.714; -78.934Coordinates: 33°42′50″N 78°56′02″W / 33.714°N 78.934°W / 33.714; -78.934
Owner

HRP Myrtle Beach Operations (April - September 2008) FPI MB Entertainment (May 2009 - August 2011)

FPI US LLC (August 2011 -Current)
Opened April 15, 2008
Closed 2009
Previous names Hard Rock Park
Operating season Memorial Weekend To Labor Day
Area 55 acres (22 ha)
Rides
Total 50+
Roller coasters 5

Freestyle Music Park, formerly Hard Rock Park, was a music theme park located in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina that opened on April 15, 2008, then temporarily closed on September 24, 2008, due to financial issues, then reopened on May 23, 2009, under the Freestyle brand,[1][2][3] and closed yet again after the 2009 season.[4] It was built on 55 acres (22 ha) on a 140-acre (57 ha) property[5] between Highway 501 and the Intracoastal Waterway on a site that includes part of the former Waccamaw Factory Shoppes in Fantasy Harbour, and using Mall 3 as its headquarters.[6]

History[edit]

The Old Hard Rock Park Sign

Development of Hard Rock Park[edit]

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.[7] AVX Corporation CEO Dick Rosen and other investors including Ziel Feldman and Safe Harbor Capital Partners managing partner Amnon Bar-Tur created two companies. Myrtle Property Owners I, which invested in the proposed theme park. Myrtle Property Owners II bought land from Rosen, with the intent to build a hotel along the Intracoastal Waterway in October 2005. A feasibility study showed that developers 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.[8]

By 2006, a licensing agreement with the Hard Rock franchise was reached.[9] 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.[10] Investors included Tim Duncan and AVX Corporation CEO Dick Rosen. Financing also included a loan of $385 million, though the park only cost $225 million to build. An early theme was the four seasons of summer, spring, winter and fall.[11]

Hard Rock Park was officially announced in early 2007.[12] Construction for the park took place in 2007.[13]

2008 season: Hard Rock Park[edit]

The grand opening celebration as Hard Rock Park on June 2, 2008, featured a concert by The Eagles and The Moody Blues. The park featured six "rock environs" celebrating rock's culture, lifestyle, legends and irreverence. These rock environs included the All Access Entry Plaza, Rock & Roll Heaven, British Invasion, Lost in the 70's, Born in the USA and Cool Country.[14] At opening, the park had amusement rides, live shows, interactive elements, kids play areas, gardens, shopping and dining attractions. The main attractions of the park were the roller coasters and live shows that were set to music. The park included an amphitheater with 10,000-person capacity featuring live daily shows and special performances. Other amusements included a carousel, a water play structure and swings. Most attractions prominently featured music, bands, and rock memorabilia like its cafe counterpart.

The park opened to "awesome" reviews. The Times of London's writer Chris Haslam concluded that America’s newest theme park brought the genre "from the preschool plastic of Disney to a new age of insubordinate adolescence through a combination of nerdy attention to detail, startling irreverence and sly wit."[15] Beth J. Harpaz, Associated Press travel editor, declared Nights in White Satin: The Trip as one of her all-time favorite rides from any park, right up there with Disney's popular Soarin' Over California ride.[16] However, Hard Rock Park had stated the park could accommodate up to 30,000 visitors a day,[17] and in light of the frozen credit markets, the park could not secure sufficient finance to underwrite its planned advertising campaign.[18] 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. The park cited “macroeconomic conditions that significantly depressed overall demand in the travel and leisure industry” and a lack of cash to advertise.[19] The park had borrowed a lot of money and could not convince investors to provide more help to keep the park going.[11]

Changes were made to operating hours and planned operating days. The original closing time of 1 a.m. was moved up to 10 p.m. in August and the park moved to weekend-only operations after Labor Day. And with an earlier end-of-season planned on November 2, the park scheduled no concerts past August 30.[20]

Early closure, bankruptcy and new owners[edit]

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".[21] 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;[22] the following month the company announced plans to sell the park. In January 2009, the company converted to Chapter 7.[23]

In February 2009, the Delaware bankruptcy court declined to force an auction and approved the sale of the park to FPI MB Entertainment (FPI) for $25 million.[24] FPI MB Entertainment was a joint venture of FPI US LLC, a company incorporated in Delaware, and MB Entertainment.[25] The partners included Roundbox Advisors, Freestyle Park International, Baker Leisure Group, and two of the park's original owners — Thomas M. Hiles and D. Tim Duncan. Baker Leisure Group managed the day-to-day park operations.[24] FPI had to completely re-skin and overhaul the park to comply with court rulings.[26]

On April 2, 2009, the new owners announced that the Hard Rock name would be dropped, despite efforts to obtain permission from Hard Rock International, which had been willing to continue use of the name if conditions could be met. The bankruptcy court required all Hard Rock merchandise to be destroyed as a result. Changing the name would give the park a more positive image since the old name was connected with the bankruptcy, and it was not considered family-oriented, which the new owners wanted the park to be. Later that month, FPI unveiled a new name for the park: Freestyle Music Park, stating that it will pay homage to a variety of musical genres, including rock n' roll, country, reggae, beach music, pop, R&B, alternative, Christian and disco.[1] The name does not refer to the Latin music genre, according to sales and marketing director John Stine.[27]

In May 2009, HRP Creative Services Co. wanted to make certain attractions separate from the park the new owners planned, with former park CEO Steven Goodwin wanting the new owners to pay royalties.[28] However, a Delaware federal judge said on March 30 that some of the previous owners still owned intellectual property rights relating to the original theme.[29] The original owners then sued FPI, claiming they had not done enough to change the park, and that the new owners were using intellectual property that was not theirs. This action threatened to delay the reopening.[30]

On June 22, 2009, the county planning commission agreed to change the name of Hard Rock Parkway to Fantasy Harbour Boulevard. FPI agreed to pay part of the cost for new signs. Businesses located on the road would have to pay their own expenses as the road, once called Outlet Boulevard, received its second name change in two years.[31] By mid-September, five of the seven signs on the street itself had been changed.[32]

2009 season: Freestyle Music Park[edit]

The park reopened on May 23, 2009, with adult admission reduced to $39.95 ($29.95 for children) and annual passes to $64.95 ($39.95 for children).[2][3] Additionally, the park offered three separate promotions during the 2009 summer season: $10 off for SC residents, $17.76 for two admission tickets before 4PM and $19.99 for two admission tickets prior to 4PM. As a result of these discounts, the park also made less money than hoped due to this need to attract more people.

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." "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. The rides are named "Get Off My Cloud," "Fly Like an Eagle," "Wheels in the Sky" and "Life Is a Highway."[33] "CSI: Live", previously performed at Six Flags Magic Mountain near Los Angeles, was added to the park and was based on the CSI TV series.[34]

As the park prepared to close at the end of the summer, FPI President Steve Baker said, "Overall, I'm real happy," and that "we're doing our best, and we're here to stay."[35] Baker made these comments despite the fact that the economy and the park's past problems contributed to a less than spectacular first season. Many amusement parks were also having difficulties, said David Mandt of International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions. Consultant Dennis Speigel, who had no connection to the park, said, "It's probably the largest catastrophe in our industry. Quite frankly the park shouldn't reopen." He said for the price FPI paid, they should have been able to make the park succeed. Speigel said the park was too far from the beach.[36]

Further problems and subsequent closure[edit]

Throughout the season, a series of lawsuits were filed against the park, adding to the park's woes. The lawsuits were filed by Brandon Advertising (for $1.4 million) on August 5, 2009, and Roundbox Advisors LLC (for $360,000) on August 17, 2009. Baker explained that FPI MB would pay both creditors, saying that Freestyle Park had fewer problems than Hard Rock Park, but people were assuming the difficulties would continue, meaning that they were less patient. Tetra Financial Group also filed a lawsuit in September for lease payments, taxes and fees.[37] In October 2009, FPI announced that they had lined up some new investors to help the park pay its debts. They signed a memorandum of understanding with the investors.[38]

The agreement to purchase Hard Rock Park included paying $570,000 the former park owners owed. In January 2010, the attorney for Hard Rock Park's trustee allowed an extension on that payment as the park searched for new investors. Court documents said the economic situation caused difficulties in making the payments. The park laid off 30 employees early in January 2010.

In February 2010, FPI attorney Tobey Daluz announced that the park would not open in March 2010 as planned. She said when or if the park opened depended on actions of investors who have not been identified.[39][40] On March 29, 2010, lawyer David Slough said the park would not reopen unless investors allowed FPI to pay Hard Rock Park's debt by the deadline of April 1, 2010. He would not say how close investors were to a deal. On April 1, 2010, Slough said, "Currently, the park has no ability to make the payment." Foreclosure and even bankruptcy are now possibilities, but the park could still find investors and reopen, according to attorney Allen Jeffcoat.[4] Court documents filed April 13, 2010, in federal bankruptcy court in Delaware say a court ruling will create a lien; the next step will likely be a Horry County court action leading to the park's sale.[41] On June 29, 2010, a federal court awarded Tetra $14 million after Freestyle failed to answer the lawsuit. On June 30, 2010, Baker said the park was "aggressively" seeking new investors. Jeffcoat, who had no connection to the case, said Tetra would only be repaid after other creditors who already had claims.[37]

On August 9, 2010, foreclosure proceedings were filed against Freestyle Music Park.[42] Mortgage holder FPI US LLC seeks over $25 million from park owner FPI MB Entertainment LLC. Loan documents identify the general manager of FPI US LLC as Alexey (Alexei in most documents) Sidnev; Sidnev is a former partner in Moscow-based MT Development, an investor in Freestyle Park that had planned a similar park in Europe. Court filings show FPI US LLC is a division of MT Development.[25] On August 20, FPI MB Entertainment responded to the foreclosure action, admitting the amount of debt is correct and that it cannot pay.[43] Four out of five creditors responding to the foreclosure claimed FPI US and FPI MB are the same company and that FPI US should not have first claim to park assets. FPI MB attorney Nate Fata denied this.[44] In an August 24, 2010, interview, Baker said the park's entire board had resigned, except for one member appointed by Russian investors who will work to sell the park. Baker, who continued to head Baker Leisure Group, believed the park could succeed under new owners.[43]

VenCore Solutions, which leased items such as radios and shelves to Hard Rock Park, continued its agreement with Freestyle Park. On September 8, VenCore, claiming FPI MB owes the company over $1 million was granted the right to repossess the property.[45] FPI MB stated in a letter that VenCore was correct that the property "is currently uninsured and not subject to a hurricane contingency plan."[46]

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.[8]

Three months before the Summer 2012 season, Alain Wizman of Keller Williams, who had been looking for buyers, said Freestyle appeared unlikely to make a return before 2013.[47] However, on April 18, 2013, local Myrtle Beach newspaper My Horry News reported that Abiding Village which is a local Christian nonprofit arts group launched a campaign with the hope of generating enough money to buy the former Freestyle Music Park minus the rides for $10 million and convert the old park into an education and entertainment complex. An official with Freestyle gave the group three weeks to come up with the resources to purchase the land and buildings, according to Abiding Village officials.[48][49] On May 7 it was announced via The Sun News that Abiding Village was way short of their goal of $10 million and with 5 days to go they still needed $9 million.[50] On May 13, WBTW and WMBF-TV reported the Abiding Village would not call the old theme park home for now at least. The group held a yard sale onMay 12, 2013 and later that evening the group's website listed the total as $155,789.82. Abiding Village reps say that they are hopeful that somehow they will still be able to buy the land in the future.[51][52]

On November 12, 2013,local media reported that Freestyle Music Park is currently 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.[53] Dozens of the rides are now listed for sale with Ital International, a company based in Nashville. All of the park's rides were listed for sale, with the exception of the Wave Swinger and Balloon Race, which were previously sold to Seabreeze Amusement Park.[54][55]

Martin Durham, the park's former vice president for entertainment says "That's the biggest shame of it all" and "That's going away and I rode it personally maybe 50 times, an old guy like me and it was a lot of fun, it really was." Durham says that many factors led to the park's demise, but the biggest culprit was the recession that hit right as it opened.[56][57][58]

On December 20, 2013, The Sun News reported that few of the rides that were for sale have found a new home at the Family Kingdom Amusement Park. The Magic Bikes and Jump Around Dunebuggies, which are two interactive family rides that were the right size to add to Family Kingdom’s 13-acre park, were purchased from Freestyle Music Park.[59]

On February 20, 2014, The Sun News reported that Medieval Times Dinner & Tournament has bought roughly four acres from the park property owners to be used so that the attraction’s 22 horses will have a place to exercise and graze. Medieval Times had that piece of land for the horses prior to the theme park opening as Hard Rock Park in 2008. While the property owners of the abandoned park are selling off the rides, Medieval Times saw this as an opportunity to use the mall slice of the park property that is beside Medieval’s parking lot. The Horry County Council must approve of this change in use.[60][61]

In late July 2014, all the rides at the park began to be dismantled and removed.[62]

On August 11, 2014, it was reported that the rides from the former Freestyle Music Park are reportedly being shipped out of the US, possibly to Vietnam. Being taken down was the roller coaster known as The Eagles' Life In The Fast Lane, which is named after one of the band's hit singles from 1977. Other rides from the park already had been sold. Ital International had listed a number of the Freestyle rides for sale on their website, but the rides were no longer listed there as of August 11.[63][64]

Attractions[edit]

Roller coasters[edit]

Hard Rock Park Freestyle Music Park Manufacturer Type Status Ref(s)
Name Area Name Area
Eagles Life in the Fast Lane Cool Country Iron Horse Country USA Vekoma Mine Train roller coaster SBNO [65]
A mine train roller coaster that would take riders through a creepy abandoned lumber mill. The ride was originally set to be named Midnight Rider; however, the coaster was renamed after it was announced that the soundtrack would be set to The Eagles.
Led Zeppelin – The Ride Rock & Roll Heaven The Time Machine Myrtle's Beach Bolliger & Mabillard Steel roller coaster SBNO [66]
The ride stood 150 feet (46 m) tall, and had a top speed of 65 mph (105 km/h). Other features included six inversions, a spiral over the existing lagoon, and an on-ride video system. When originally operating as Led Zeppelin – The Ride, guests were treated to a unique multimedia Led Zeppelin live-concert experience during the pre-show. The ride was most notable for active participation of surviving Led Zeppelin band members Jimmy Page, Robert Plant and John Paul Jones, who contributed to all aspects of the ride, including the ride name, logo and overall look and feel of the vehicles.[67] The Led Zeppelin properties were licensed from C + P Eighty-Six Ltd. Under Freestyle Music Park, the ride was set to the music of the 1960s to the 2000s.
Maximum RPM! British Invasion Round About Across the Pond Premier Rides Steel roller coaster SBNO [68]
A convertible car-coaster that races to 1980s hits, particularly Gary Numan's "Cars". Riders go for a test drive through a mock factory in British sports cars. The coaster features a first-of-its-kind ferris wheel lift hill, where the coaster trains are rolled from the bottom of the track onto a ferris wheel-like contraption and then pushed off at the top into a high speed adventure. The ride building somewhat resembles Battersea Power Station with an inflatable pig, in reference to the cover of Pink Floyd's Animals album. Automaker BMW sued the park in 2010 over the similarity of the attraction's ride vehicle to the plaintiff's Mini Cooper.[citation needed]
Shake, Rattle & Rollercoaster Born in the USA Hang Ten Kids in America Vekoma Junior roller coaster SBNO [69]
A classic boardwalk-themed kiddie roller coaster.
Slippery When Wet Born in the USA Soak'd Kids in America Premier Rides Suspended roller coaster SBNO [70]
A suspended roller coaster that featured an interactive experience permitting non-riders to fire water cannons as the roller coaster trains passed by, at the risk of themselves being drenched by overhead showers that fired at random.

Other attractions[edit]

Hard Rock Park Freestyle Music Park Manufacturer Type Status Ref(s)
Name Area Name Area
All the King's Horses Carousel British Invasion Carnaby Carousel Across the Pond Chance Rides Grand Carousel SBNO [71]
Garage Jam Born in the USA Grunge Station Across the Pond Prime Interactives Ball play area SBNO [72]
Games Born in the USA Ring My Bell Across the Pond Upcharge attraction SBNO
Just a Swingin' Cool Country The Texas Swing Country USA Bertazzon Wave Swinger Relocating to Seabreeze Amusement Park [54][55]
Kids Rock! State Park Born in the USA Fantasy Harbour State Park Kids in America Rope Courses, Inc. Ropes course SBNO [73]
London Cab Ride British Invasion McGillivray Cab Company Across the Pond HUSS Park Attractions Rodeo (London cabs) SBNO [74]
Magic Mushroom Garden British Invasion Faerie Glen Across the Pond HUSS Park Attractions Swamp Thing SBNO [75]
A Scrambler-style ride featuring the "World's largest blacklight poster."[76]
Muddin' Monster Race Cool Country Big Ol' Trucks Country USA HUSS Park Attractions Swing Around SBNO [77]
Nights in White Satin: The Trip British Invasion Monstars of Rock Across the Pond Sally Corp. / ETF Dark ride SBNO [78]
Was a dark ride based on The Moody Blues' "Nights in White Satin". The ride incorporated sights, sounds, smells and tactile effects, onboard ride vehicle audio, a purpose-made movie written to the spoken word section of the song, and a re-orchestrated version of the iconic song by Justin Hayward. Guests entered through a bead curtain and wore chroma-depth 3-D glasses during the ride. Nights was voted in the top three new attractions of 2008 in a themeparkinsider.com annual poll.
Pinball Wizard Arcade Born in the USA Who's Tommy Arcade Across the Pond Arcade SBNO
The Punk Pit Born in the USA Jump Across the Pond Bounce house SBNO
Reggae River Falls Rock & Roll Heaven Polly Nesian's Splash Bash Myrtle's Beach Water play area SBNO [79]
Sole Train Born in the USA Cuckoo-Ka-ChooChoo Kids in America Zamperla Rio Grande SBNO [80]
N/A Fly Like An Eagle Kids in America Zamperla Kite Flyer SBNO [81]
N/A Get Off Of My Cloud Kids in America Zamperla Balloon Race Relocating to Seabreeze Amusement Park [54][55]
N/A Kids' Tree House Kids in America Henderson Treehouse playground SBNO [82]
N/A Life Is A Highway Kids in America Zamperla Convoy SBNO [83]

Shows[edit]

Hard Rock Park Freestyle Music Park Manufacturer Type Status Ref(s)
Name Area Name Area
Bohemian Rhapsody All Access Entry Plaza Kiss the Sky VIP Plaza Fireworks and laser show Closed
Bohemian Rhapsody was a nighttime show held over the lagoon, set to the classic song by Queen. The show featured fountains, fireworks and a laser-light show displayed from the top of the giant Gibson Guitar icon. The fireworks and lasers returned for Kiss the Sky.
Ice House Theatre Cool Country Ice Cold Country Country USA Ice show Closed
Originally showed "Country on the Rocks", a rock-themed show set on ice. Freestyle Music Park saw the theatre present an ice show set to country and southern rock music. Situated in a former Fantasy Harbour-era ice skating theater subsumed into the amusement park.
Live Amphitheater Born in the USA Template:''Stars theatre'' Kids In America Closed
The main stage used for a series of headline acts, specialty musicians, high school bands as well as being the location of the opening-day Eagles/Moody Blues concerts. Bowling for Soup were the first band to play at the venue.
Malibu Beach Party Rock & Roll Heaven Adrenaline Rush Myrtle's Beach Closed
Malibu Beach Party was a live-action comedy show set to all the great beach classics and some modern day pop songs. A cast of dancers and swimmers danced, dove, performed stunts on motorcycles and interacted with the crowd in a lakefront/poolside amphitheater. During Freestyle Music Park's operation the stunt show consisted of skateboards, bicycles and rollerblades.
Origins All Access Entry Plaza Beale Street Theatre VIP Plaza Film presentation Closed
A film presentation showing the history of rock n roll and how it is intertwined with theme parks.
Phonehenge Stage British Invasion N/A Performance stage Demolished
A performance area equipped with red British-style phone boxes arranged to resemble Stonehenge. Featured Fireeater/sword-swallower/juggler Lukas Dudek.
Roadies Stunt Show British Invasion CSI: Live Across the Pond Show Closed
Roadies Stunt Show was a twist on the popular stunt show concept with rock and roll 'roadies' as characters. This show featured many 'cirque'-type elements and numerous pyrotechnic effects. It was replaced by CSI: Live, based on the TV series. Investigators would try to determine who committed a murder at a magic show, with audience members considered suspects.

Flip 5 Live!-Stars Theatre-Kids In America This was "a high energy, interactive show that rocked the house." The 11 characters were named Kira, Kimmy, Dot, Spin, Chase, Bounce, Trip, Jive, Jam, Cali and Zach. They sang original and cover songs from the past and present.

Fictional story[edit]

On October 26, 2010, the book Grand Strand by former park employee Reid Barwick, became available for purchase online. Many of the details of the fictional "Rocktime Amusement Park" match those of the real story of Hard Rock and Freestyle Music Parks. However, the book contains fraudulent deals which Baker denies took place.[84]

In popular culture[edit]

The park was used as a set on an episode of the TV Series Revolution. Several rides and the park itself are used as the scene of a post-apocalyptic amusement park.[85]

References[edit]

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  3. ^ a b Cherney, Mike (May 24, 2009). "Freestyle Music Park rolls out smooth opener". The Sun News. 
  4. ^ a b Spring, Jake (2010-04-02). "Freestyle Music Park misses deadline". The Sun News. Retrieved 2010-04-02. 
  5. ^ Hard Rock Park page - The (Myrtle Beach) Sun News
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  14. ^ HARD ROCK PARK TURNS UP THE VOLUME ON THE FAMILY LEISURE SCENE, Press Release
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External links[edit]