Rock and Roll Heaven

BY Kevin C. O Donovan

In Myrtle Beach near the shuttered remnants of the old Waccamaw Pottery there are once again signs of life. Tucked in the corner of a former retail space desks are haphazardly placed and the room buzzes with hive-like energy and activity reminiscent of an Internet start-up in the late 1990s when a band of people came together with a dream driven by enthusiasm fueled by pizza energy drinks and venture capital. Office decoration was unimportant in the face of building a business from the ground up — though someone always did find time to hang a disco ball. Suits are few and far between in this Myrtle Beach office space and the few jackets that are seen come paired with slightly shaggy hair and open collars that say: We’re rock and roll man. Amid the dust of construction and clutter the team is bringing a modern-day ghost town back to life changing hard times to hard hats and creating the ultimate destination for music fans young and old alike.

he first rock and roll-themed park and the first major new theme park in the last decade Hard Rock Park packs 55 acres of entertainment and fun for families no matter their musical taste. The $400 million project is built around what the park calls environs essentially themes within themes. The environs include Rock and Roll Heaven British Invasion Lost in the 70s Born in the USA and Cool Country.

Each environ is further built around a signature roller coaster but is also designed to be uniquely family friendly. The folks at Hard Rock Park like to talk about intergenerational travelers as Megan Winnett public relations manager for the park explains. “Rather than having one area for the kids and another for the grownups each
environ includes something for the kids something for mom and dad and even grandma too. Families like to be together and here that’s possible.”

Each of the coasters and rides has its own unique features
including one that allows spectators to soak folks on the ride from conveniently located water cannons. But the real star of the park is found appropriately in Rock and Roll Heaven.

Meet Led Zeppelin: The Ride. Created with the blessing and cooperation of the band itself this sitting coaster — a Bolliger & Mabillard — rises 155 feet just 13 inches below what the Federal Aviation Authority will allow (rock and rollers always have to push it don’t they?). The rockin’ rocket packs a 120-foot drop six
inversions a 95-foot cobra roll a 75-foot zero-gravity roll and a top speed of 65 miles per hour. Each train is equipped with 64 speakers powered by 1 200 watts of eardrum-shattering power and every drop lift and scream is tightly choreographed to Led Zep’s hugely popular hit single
Whole Lotta Love.

The coaster is bound to draw coaster enthusiasts and Led Zep fans from around the world. The park itself can host up to 30 000 guests at one time and more importantly to the Myrtle Beach area
provide up to 3 000 jobs.

Upon entering the park’s “all access” entry plaza visitors are sure to be struck by the majesty of it all the over-the-top devotion to rock and roll history and rock and roll royalty. All the giants are here: The Stones The Who Ozzy even the actual bus used by The Beatles on their Magical Mystery Tour.

The love demonstrated for all things rock and roll is evident in the park’s attention to detail its cleverness and its overall creativity behind the scenes all spearheaded by Jon Binkowski the park’s chief creative officer.

This isn’t Binkowski’s first foray into the theme park business; he began his career as a costumed cast member at SeaWorld San Diego. Following a long career with SeaWorld’s parent company Harcourt Brace Jovanovich Inc. Binkowski recognized the opportunity where others thought there was no way to revitalize the area.

“When I first saw the property I fell in love with it ” Binkowski says “but many people said nothing would succeed on the ‘other’ side of the Intracoastal Waterway. I would smile and say ‘Please don’t tell that to Medieval Times because they are very successful.’ Just goes to show you if you have a great product this is the perfect property.”

Binkowski then put together the team that brought the whole project together: Stephen Goodwin who helped develop Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Biloxi Mississippi and Felix Mussenden a former vice president of attractions at Universal Studios in Florida.

The pairing of their experience with Binkowski’s creative drive has resulted in what promises to be a hugely popular attraction (and one close enough to the Azalea Coast for an easy day trip). With the many performance stages within the complex the park will surely draw the biggest names in rock music to the venue. In fact Hard Rock Park’s opening weekend will feature concerts with the Eagles and the Moody Blues.

The overarching aspect of Hard Rock Park is its ever-present vibe of playfulness. This feeling of fun is found in every attraction. From the enormous signature Gibson guitar to the golden gates that greet visitors at Rock and Roll Heaven to the top secret “discoveries” sprinkled throughout the park every inch has been designed for a fabulous time. We won’t tell you what the secret “discoveries” are because we don’t want to spoil the surprise but trust us they’re waiting for you. Okay just one: There’s a photo-op statue that can come to life heckle unsuspecting visitors and also squirt them with water. No we’re not telling you which one or where it is. You’ll have to discover it for yourself.

You’re going to love Hard Rock Park. The fun starts at the front gates where you’ll smile when seeing the entrance arch emblazoned with a quote from Nirvana’s 1990s smash hit Smells Like Teen Spirit: “Here we are now entertain us ” and continues all day and night until the time you leave. Even on your way out the Hard Rock Park people have a treat for you a hopeful thought from the Beatles’ Abbey Road album: “And in the end the love you take is equal to the love you make.” So visit the rocking world of Hard Rock Park and take some love back into the real world when you go. You’ll be back for more.

Rock on.


Hard Rock Park’s grand opening event kicks off on Monday June 2 with an opening ceremony and exclusive concert by the Eagles and continues the next day with a concert by the Moody Blues.

Tickets are available online at www.hardrockpark.comTravel Directions From Wilmington

1. Take 76 West to US 17 S toward Shallotte /Myrtle Beach

2. Stay on US 17 S 48.9 miles crossing into South Carolina

3. Merge onto SC-9 toward SC-31 / Loris

4. Take the US – 31 S ramp toward Myrtle Beach / Georgetown and merge onto US 31 S

5. Take 31S to Myrtle Beach to Myrtle Beach Exit (501 S)

6. Take the Forestbrook Exit

7. Make a left onto Hard Rock Parkway

8. Make a right onto Harbour Blvd.