by Paul Ruben
What if someone built a venue filled with statues of prize-winning swine and called it Hard Rock Pork? No? Then what if someone built a venue paying homage to late 20th Century music, filled it with themed rides, and named it Hard Rock Park? A better idea, for sure, and now it’s reality.
Hard Rock Park opened in May at Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, celebrating the spirit of rock ‘n’ roll with more than 50 rides, shows and attractions (see the park profile elewhere in this isssue). It is eerily reminiscent of Orlando’s Islands of Adventure since it encircles a lake, has magnificent theming and the music changes as you move from area to area.
The shows I saw were wonderfully staged, and the audiences were engaged. I absolutely loved the park’s theming. The big B&M coaster is called Led Zeppelin – The Ride and begins with a pre-show highlighting the band of the same name, and then you enter a loading station shaped like a large blimp. Once aboard you are accompanied by some of Led Zeppelin’s head-banging music. I wish they had taken requests. I would have asked them to play Far, Far Away since the speakers were right at my feet.
My favourite attraction, pictured above, was Nights in White Satin – The Trip, a dark ride by Sally Corp based on the symphonic rock song by The Moody Blues. The Trip is both unique and daring among dark rides. It is not interactive and there are no gags jumping out at riders, but rather it is a mind-bending journey that weaves between reality and illusion, like an LSD trip without the adverse consequences (not that I would know).
The other innovative ride featured is Maximum RPM, a coaster from Premier Rides that uses a Ferris Wheel-like device to lift single cars to the top of the drop. It reminded me of the Whirl Fly that operated at Coney Island from 1905 through 1908 in which you rode a four-gondola Ferris wheel over undulating coaster tracks.
But there is already concern about the financial health of this gated park. Although it is targeting families, there are only two kiddie rides among a total of 13 rides, and no bumper cars. Compare this to the nearby un-gated Family Kingdom that has 31 rides including 14 kiddie rides. It does most of its business in the evening, when families come off the beach or from one of the many golf courses nearby. Will there be enough ride junkies and music lovers to fill Hard Rock Park during the day? It will be a marketing challenge. No one wants another Wild West World fiasco.
My real disappointment, however, was that Hard Rock Park did not have an attraction honouring my favourite rock band of all time: Moishe Pippick and the Five Urinators. Who can forget their big hit, I Can’t Get Over a Girl Like You, So Answer The Phone Yourself? They just don’t make tunes like that any more.