Speigel says it's time to "bury" Freestyle Music Park

Posted Monday, August 23, 2010 12:24 PM | Contributed by Jeff

The mortgage holder for Freestyle Music Park has foreclosed on the park's property, leading one industry consultant to proclaim that it is "time to bury" the shuttered, financially troubled attraction. The foreclosure indicates that key Russian investors, who also hold the mortgage and have supported the park since it was bought out of bankruptcy in 2009, have withdrawn their support for Freestyle, which never opened for the 2010 season.

Read more from The Sun News.

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Monday, August 23, 2010 12:46 PM

A third shot at a park does seem pretty unrealistic. Cutting their losses and selling the ride hardware seems like the best option.

Is the land it sits on pretty valuable?

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Monday, August 23, 2010 1:30 PM

shorter Speigel: "No one is willing to pay for consulting contracts on this one, so it's time to give up on it".

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Monday, August 23, 2010 1:33 PM

Agreed. Sell of the rides and call it a day. It was the wrong place and the wrong time to set up a park.

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Monday, August 23, 2010 2:11 PM

Not that wrong of a place, though the timing was fairly horrible. What was wrong was the entire vision on how to promote and market the park. If only that had been about ten times better, this place might have survived, and probably even thrived one day. Shoulda, coulda, woulda.

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Monday, August 23, 2010 2:38 PM

I still think that if HRP were properly marketed, and it was well-funded to the extent that it could lose money for two or three years, it would've been successful in the long run.

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Monday, August 23, 2010 2:42 PM

When I first read the tag line - I thought it said "SMEIGel"

Me wants the Precious!!!! Me wants to bury the Precioussss!!!

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Monday, August 23, 2010 6:12 PM

Jeff said:
I still think that if HRP were properly marketed, and it was well-funded to the extent that it could lose money for two or three years, it would've been successful in the long run.

Probably right Jeff, but don't underestimate the stigma that the phrase "hard rock" had given the area's tourist demo. When Dollywood fans want to go to the ocean, they go to Myrtle Beach. That, and poor geographic location within the MB area, relative to other attractions (tourist concentrations), and an abysmal marketing plan drove this one into the ground.

I never made it during it's first year, but was suspicious from the start, simply because the "hard rock" name wouldn't play as well as you would expect.

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Monday, August 23, 2010 6:21 PM

I'd believe that if the restaurants had a hard time.

There seems to be no problem selling people food under the "Hard Rock" brand, so why does it become so difficult to sell a theme park-style experience under the same brand?

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Monday, August 23, 2010 6:47 PM

Yeah, I'm the same way. I suppose I've been to the restaurants in a half-dozen cities, always crowded. They finally just opened one here in Seattle. There's no shortage of people staying at the hotel of that name at Universal as well.

I had the interesting opportunity to hear a guy from their agency speak at a tech conference a couple of years ago, who talked about what the brand was and who the audience was. It was a lot wider than I thought, but when you figure they cover everything from classic rock to recent pop, I suppose it's not that shocking.

I still think it could have worked. It's a pretty strong brand. But you know, people have to know the park exists before they actually think about going there.

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Monday, August 23, 2010 6:51 PM

Location, location, location. Having been to the park as both HRP and Freestyle both times we got lost on the way there. Very little to no signs on the roads.

I believe if it was a little closer to the beach, or near Broadway at the beach and had a little more advertising, this park couldve become a hit.

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Monday, August 23, 2010 6:53 PM

Well duh, they said they didn't need signs. Social marketing was going to get people there!

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Monday, August 23, 2010 7:48 PM

I was specifically referring to the Hard Rock brand as it relates to the rural South-Eastern US demographic that naturally flows to MB. One would expect HRC branded entertainment venues (not Hillary Rodham Clinton) to do well in other towns (ie. Orlando, the Casinos in Vegas and Florida, etc), and of course the restaurants are famous (some spectacularly successful) all over the world.

I'm just saying that if you took the normal Pigeon Forge demographic then threw them on some sand, that convincing the parents to go to a ride park with a Led Zepplin themed coaster (along with Eagles, a trippy dark ride, etc), would be a hard sell.

Horrible marketing and a management that was completely unprepared to "sell" a them park" doomed the place. However, even with street signs and a reasonably adept marketing program, I still say the park would have faced a headwind that they might not have been able to overcome.

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Monday, August 23, 2010 7:50 PM

I think the park was in a great location at myrtle beach, as lots of people come in to the area on the road its on, but still, there are plenty that don't, and it wasn't marketed. I think what they had planned originally (for the Paradise City shopping district, a water park, a Hard Rock Hotel) would have been great where it was, but they just dropped the ball marketing it.

And seeing as how MB is known as the 'Redneck Rivera', I don't think the Hard Rock brand was a problem either. People seriously didn't know about the park, especially outside of the Myrtle area, and it opened at a really bad time.

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Monday, August 23, 2010 8:35 PM

Anyone hear any word if Charmland is going to escape the wrecking ball this winter? I sure would love to get another turn on High Speed Thrill Slide.

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Monday, August 23, 2010 10:04 PM

I agree with Jeff. I was there when it was Hard Rock, and I saw the beginnings of a really good park. The problem wasn't the park, its design, or the location, which was only a couple of miles from Broadway and right around the corner from the Coastal Grande Mall. The problem was management. While it's true that the park was completed and opened during some of the worst economic conditions in history, the leadership is guilty for being unprepared for the long term, for overspending, for horrible marketing practices, and for mismanaging the park while it was open. Had the right management been in place from the beginning, we wouldn't be talking about burying the park.

The second version called Freestyle never had a chance either. There were too many liens, lawsuits, and debts to be paid, not to mention a ridiculous lawsuit from the former owners that buried the park in massive payments while stripping it of much of it's theme. Add all that to a still crappy economy, where borrowing money was a fairly impossible task, and buyers who didn't have a lot of cash to invest in the first place, and it became the proverbial one legged man in a butt kicking contest.

This guy Speigel hasn't liked Hard Rock/Freestyle from the beginning. Every time a story was ever printed, there's a quote from him about how bad of an idea it was. The concept was actually good, but the execution was horrible. Even so, he has a point about burying this one. It's left a horrible taste in the mouth of locals and local businesses, and it has the stench of failure. If someone were to acquire the property and rides during auction, they would have to have some serious money to invest and would have to hire a highly reputable operator to even have a chance... because I'm thinking that a lot of local companies who never got paid for previous services wouldn't come near the place.

There's still a place for a large theme park in the area though. The area attracts 15 million tourists a year...over half of them middle and upper middle class families. I don't buy that a well designed, well run park can't work.

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Tuesday, August 24, 2010 12:42 AM

As I recall, the original cash flow for the park was based on some ridiculously optimistic projections for attendance and revenue. This didn't leave them much room for error to have enough money available to cover operating expenses.

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Tuesday, August 24, 2010 1:30 AM

@D: I'm not entirely sure why Speigel is the only "consultant" ever interviewed for industry stuff. Beyond what I understand to be his involvement in the Taft parks early on, I'm not even sure what his qualifications are. It does sound a little sour grape-ish. But then, look at how many times I've been quoted in newspapers. The bar is pretty low. :)

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Thursday, August 26, 2010 7:45 AM

D the Great said:
This guy Speigel hasn't liked Hard Rock/Freestyle from the beginning. Every time a story was ever printed, there's a quote from him about how bad of an idea it was. The concept was actually good, but the execution was horrible. Even so, he has a point about burying this one. It's left a horrible taste in the mouth of locals and local businesses, and it has the stench of failure. If someone were to acquire the property and rides during auction, they would have to have some serious money to invest and would have to hire a highly reputable operator to even have a chance... because I'm thinking that a lot of local companies who never got paid for previous services wouldn't come near the place.

This sounds EXACTLY like what had happened to a local ( and now defunct of course ) FOX TV station in my neck of the woods.

No sooner had that station signed on the air a local newspaper reporter kept running stories about how "Bad" the idea was, why do we need a FOX station when we can watch FOX out of DC and Baltimore? The news anchors are terrible !! "...FOX 60 won't make it !!"..etc..etc..

After a period of time those stories had taken a toll as many local businesses decided well it may not be a good idea to do business with them and most of their decisions were indeed based on those negaitve stories plus those "bad stories" ended up making all the way to FOX themselves.

Anyway within two years this station had gone from airing stuff like "The Simpsons" and "Married..with Children" to airing programming done at the local high school and other grade Z stuff like public domain cartoons from the 30's just before they went dark.

Going back to FMP, I have seen posts on other sites from those who felt the park should had been built in Texas rather than South Carolina since, if one is to believe those so-called Forbes lists, Texas has to to enter a recession. ...Of course many of those posters were from texas and perhaps from the Houston area still cant get over the loss of Astroworld.

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