Freestyle working to establish partnerships, has cash to survive economy

Posted Saturday, June 20, 2009 11:08 AM | Contributed by Jeff

Hard Rock Park blew into Myrtle Beach with a bang and shortly after fizzled to barely a spark. It went up for sale, eventually going to the new owners, FPI MB Entertainment, LLC. The company purchased the park for 25 million dollars, a real steal compared to the more than 200 million price tag Hard Rock shelled out to build the park. Freestyle said because of the low price, their cash reserve should both allow them to enhance the park and sustain them through this down economy.

Read more and see video from WBTW/Myrtle Beach-Florence.

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Saturday, June 20, 2009 12:35 PM

Great story. I wonder if future plans will be to make the park a complete theme park experience, giving it the kind of rides that I believe led to HRP's downfall?

It really sounds like management knows what they are doing.

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Saturday, June 20, 2009 4:14 PM

Sigh...

They really keep trying to sell the hell out of that Zamperla kiddie package, don't they?

FWIW, their 'lowered' ticket price is more than I paid last year.

The only reason this park is going to survive is because the new company has so little invested in it and can weather the non-existent attendance - not because they 'get it' any more than the old guys did.

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Saturday, June 20, 2009 7:18 PM

I beleve that they were insinuating in the news story that they wanted to build more attractions this season, but simply didn't have the time. The new kiddie rides are the new attraction, so that's what they are going to sell the hell out of.

I bet you could find a nice discount on tickets if you tried really hard, Gonch. Quit being a party pooper. ;)

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Saturday, June 20, 2009 8:00 PM

LostKause said:
The new kiddie rides are the new attraction, so that's what they are going to sell the hell out of.

To me that's further proof that they have a lot to learn.

Not sure exactly how many successful park campaigns have been built on the back of four off-the-shelf Zamperla kiddie rides, but I gotta think the number is pretty low. ;)

Nice for the local FEC, not so good for the regional tourist attraction.

Quit being a party pooper. ;)

It's a fine line between party pooper and the voice of reason.

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Saturday, June 20, 2009 10:15 PM

I dunno. CP seemed to do a good job milking Planet Snoopy for everything they could. To me, that wasn't substantively different than what Freestyle is doing.

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Saturday, June 20, 2009 11:24 PM

Sounds like a great podcast topic to me!! :)

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Saturday, June 20, 2009 11:38 PM

I've given Freestyle enough grief on the podcast. :)

I'm also working with the handicap of knowing how great HRP was. I'm allowed to be a cynical loudmouth on this one.

Last edited by Lord Gonchar, Saturday, June 20, 2009 11:41 PM
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Saturday, June 20, 2009 11:54 PM

^You can't blame the new owners for all the changes. They were forced to do it.
The Baker Leisure group has a strong backround in managing parks so I don't think they have alot to learn.

I believe 2010 will see the major additions as they will have time.

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Sunday, June 21, 2009 12:48 AM

That's what I was getting at in my previous post, that Freestyle is likely to have a few awesome additions next season. They just didn't have enough time to do much this season.

Cedar Point made a pretty big deal out of Camp Snoopy in 1999. It was slightly larger than Kid's In America, but to me that's acceptable given the size and popularity between the two parks.

And then there's the previously mentioned Planet Snoopy as well.

Let's see what they have planned for the next season. I want the place to resemble a well rounded theme park before I decide to make a special trip.

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Sunday, June 21, 2009 1:16 AM

At this point, Freestyle has to do whatever they can to show they're different owners and the park is different than what was previously there. If that difference is 4 kiddie rides, then so be it.

One of the places it appears where the new owners "get it" is in reaching out to the community and trying to be one component in their overall tourism picture. By now, any article about Hard Rock would have had dozens of negative comments from locals attached to it. Even that to me signifies progress.

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Sunday, June 21, 2009 1:26 AM

The funny thing is I don't think they're lacking rides and need additions. The problem is they think they need them.

HRP was a fun day of shopping, eating, live music, rides, shows and an immersion into that whole 'rock vibe'.

FMP looks like another run-of-the-mill park with a half-baked music theme...with intentions of become more run-of-the-mill with each year.

Sure that's an easy sell (people are stupid and like mediocrity) and their hand has been semi-forced on much of it (far from all though), but that doesn't make it good.

Knowing what HRP offered and knowing the changes that have been made - I don't see how this place is drawing any interest at all (well, yes I do, see the above 'stupid and mediocre' comment)...it's all the worst of the old HRP, just watered down.

More power to these guys for doing what they can and kudos for putting themselves in a place to weather the lack of interest monetarily, but while I'm all for the business side of the game, I'm not digging the phone-it-in, paint-by-numbers approach and never have. I think that's why I'm such a Shapiro fanboy.

I'd even go as far as to say I understand why they think they have to do what they've done, I just think they're taking the wrong approach. I'd have done almost the opposite of what they've done mmostly because I don't think HRP was a failing concept in itself....everything else about how it was handled was. I would have changed as little as possible inside the gate.

There's just nothing in the whole story of the new ownership that feels even remotely positive to me.

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Sunday, June 21, 2009 11:36 AM

The only positives I see are that they have a marketing budget and in conjunction with that are working with local businesses and becoming a part of the community. But you know, you could've done that with the Hard Rock and band brands and be something more.

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Sunday, June 21, 2009 12:09 PM

How is adding more attraction that people expect from a theme park mediocrity? Adding to what they already have isn't going to make them more "half-baked." It's going to make the pare more appealing to more people, which will only help the bottom line.

Gonch, are you saying that if someone wants to see this park add the kind of attractions that will make it more on par with other well established theme parks, they are "stupid" and are accepting "mediocrity"?

We have two different ideas of the meaning of "mediocrity". "Mediocrity" to me is really crappy, off-the-shelf coasters and a lack of attractions that are to be expected at a theme park.

The public can go to a theme park even if they are not interested in the theme, as long as the attracvtions are there to keep them busy. I really don't like country music, but because Dollywood is a well rounded theme park with many, what seem to be, great attractions, I am planning my first visit this year. I still believe that one of the biggest problems with HRP was the lack of attractions. The public didn't accept "mediocrity". They just didn't go.

And I think FMP's management is well on their way to making the park very successful.

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Sunday, June 21, 2009 1:41 PM

LostKause said:
We have two different ideas of the meaning of "mediocrity". "Mediocrity" to me is really crappy, off-the-shelf coasters and a lack of attractions that are to be expected at a theme park.

Mediocrity to me is a state of averageness. Being average. Middle of the road. Ordinary.

They're well on their way to creating an average, ordinary theme park.

HRP was not an average theme park experience. FMP already looks dumbed down enough to be.

Gonch, are you saying that if someone wants to see this park add the kind of attractions that will make it more on par with other well established theme parks, they are "stupid" and are accepting "mediocrity"?

Absolutely. People want the same old same old.

And I think FMP's management is well on their way to making the park very successful.

I'm sure they are.

Jeff said:
The only positives I see are that they have a marketing budget and in conjunction with that are working with local businesses and becoming a part of the community. But you know, you could've done that with the Hard Rock and band brands and be something more.

Exactly. Let me repeat myself:

More power to these guys for doing what they can and kudos for putting themselves in a place to weather the lack of interest monetarily.

I understand why they think they have to do what they've done, I just think they're taking the wrong approach. I'd have done almost the opposite of what they've done mostly because I don't think HRP was a failing concept in itself....everything else about how it was handled was. I would have changed as little as possible inside the gate.

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Sunday, June 21, 2009 3:26 PM

Here's an idea. Try answering your phone or replying to an email. I've been trying to get thru to the park for 2 days to get information on some discounts. They won't answer the phone once the call is transfered to a rep. and they haven't replied to my e mail regarding the same info. Do they not have anyone in the office on the weekends?

I am planning to go down there tomorrow but my confidence that I'll find an open park is fading.

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Sunday, June 21, 2009 8:10 PM

So it's impossible to understand running a theme park unless you've run a theme park?

Then how does anyone get the job? :)

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Monday, June 22, 2009 12:33 AM

Hey folks,

(this is directed mostly to Gonchar)

Just like all of you I have an insane love for all things amusement parks. Now...let's think about the other things we may love. Our friends, family, maybe a local pizza shop? Do we always nit pick and bitch? For example, "Yeah, f*** Mom, how dare she just bring home fried chicken instead of cooking up something fresh and exotic."

Look, the new owners had ZERO time to get things going. What do you want them to build a forest and install a custoom woodie in a matter of months. The thing is we need to be more positive and just offer SOLUTIONS. Instead of just adding our negative comments. So yes I could sit here and completely breakdown Gonchar's comments and expose him as an idiot. But instead, I will offer positive/solution based feedback.

Sure they are only kiddie rides, but they were aiming for families. I think that's great. Having been to many Asian theme parks, I love seeing ALL AGES at amusement parks. Hell, women even get dressed up in high heels over there. But, with a Rock theme, you're certainly alienating the general public. With the economy, people are naturally against major corporations, so sure it's no HRP, but it's a nice and gentle change. I say we just look for the future to see what they do.

They should look to install more interactive/up charge attractions to counter act the low attendance and capitalize. Though, they honestly should just offer them for free. Why not install Japanese-style karaoke booths. What about a maze, a fun house? Keep adding 'themed' attractions that cater to everyone. Lastly, I hate to say it, but Freestyle does not need to please us 'hardcore' coaster freaks. What they do need is a solid foundation for the local community since there are enough tourists coming in to fill the park. So if the community loves and supports it all aspects, it will surely survive and then be able to add those goodies that make us drool.

BOTTOM LINE: WE ARE ALL GREAT! STOP BITCHING AND JUST EMBRACE THE POSITIVES. SAYING SOMEONE IS WRONG DOES NOT MAKE YOU RIGHT! So to Gonchar and everyone, you rock! Have a great day.

respect,

Crave in Japan

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Monday, June 22, 2009 12:54 AM

It's clear you know nothing about me nor understand my posts. So I'll work backwards to enlighten...and I am willing to do a complete breakdown to expose the idiot. I got nothing but free time and cynicism.

Just2coolyo said:
Hey folks,

(this is directed mostly to Gonchar)

Most are. I have a way with people. :)

Look, the new owners had ZERO time to get things going. What do you want them to build a forest and install a custoom woodie in a matter of months.

No, that's pretty much the exact opposite of what I want.

The thing is we need to be more positive and just offer SOLUTIONS. Instead of just adding our negative comments.

I am and have. In case you missed it the hundred other times I said it, here it is again:

Change as little as possible. You bought a great thing at an unbelieveable bargain. Run it correctly (unlike the last owners) and bask in the success of something truly special. Don't dumb it down. Sell it for what it is and get the word out that this isn't the typical amusement park experience and you'll have something people will travel to see...not something people see when they travel.

So yes I could sit here and completely breakdown Gonchar's comments and expose him as an idiot.

Too late. I do it to myself all the time.

However in this case I suspect it's someone not understanding the intelligent conversation happening all around them and thinking it's nonsense. But it's nice that you're trying.

Sure they are only kiddie rides, but they were aiming for families. I think that's great. Having been to many Asian theme parks, I love seeing ALL AGES at amusement parks.

I do too. Never said otherwise. In fact, it's one of the reasons I've championed the current SF management. It's about smart decisions that draw crowds. Getting families to your park should be #1 on the list.

But, with a Rock theme, you're certainly alienating the general public.

Oh please. To who on Earth (especially the MB crowd) is 'rock music' an alienating force? If that were the case, the restaurants would be failing too...instead they're in most tourist locations and full of tourists.

They should look to install more interactive/up charge attractions to counter act the low attendance and capitalize. Though, they honestly should just offer them for free. Why not install Japanese-style karaoke booths. What about a maze, a fun house? Keep adding 'themed' attractions that cater to everyone.

Because those things make it an ordinary, run-of-the-mill theme park with a weakly held together music theme...and that sucks - especially when they had something so unique with so much potential for success pretty much handed to them.

(Geez, did you read anything I posted before calling me an idiot?)

Lastly, I hate to say it, but Freestyle does not need to please us 'hardcore' coaster freaks.

I don't hate to say it. It's what I say all the time about all the parks. It applies here too. I don't think they needed to add a thing at FMP...not one attraction...to be successful.

What they do need is a solid foundation for the local community since there are enough tourists coming in to fill the park.

Agreed. And again, if you had read my posts here and in other threads, you'd know this is exactly what I've said all along. HRP was a solid thing...the lack foundation in the local community and lack of marketing killed it...nothing else.

So if the community loves and supports it all aspects, it will surely survive and then be able to add those goodies that make us drool.

Yep. And even if they don't (and from what I understand the crowds aren't exactly flocking), the fact that the new owners paid for an entire park what some parks pay for one single coaster, they can operate with nobody stopping by until they figure out how to get them to visit. So good for them on that front too.

SAYING SOMEONE IS WRONG DOES NOT MAKE YOU RIGHT!

Might be time to take your own advice. :)

So to Gonchar and everyone, you rock! Have a great day.

You too. Thanks for playing.

Last edited by Lord Gonchar, Monday, June 22, 2009 1:06 AM
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Monday, June 22, 2009 12:58 AM

Just2coolyo said:
So yes I could sit here and completely breakdown Gonchar's comments and expose him as an idiot.

I seriously doubt that. Though your attempt at it may amuse us all.

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