Eight years after Steven Goodwin dreamed of creating the world's first rock-and-roll theme park, he can finally break out his air guitar. In June, Goodwin will celebrate with the likes of the Moody Blues and the Eagles at the grand opening of the $400 million Hard Rock Park, based in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.
The 140-acre amusement park is owned and operated by Goodwin and his executive management team, who license the Hard Rock name through Hard Rock International. Goodwin is the company's CEO and CFO.
The park aims to appeal to every type of rock fan, young and old. With six themed areas, such as the British Invasion, Country Cool, and Born in the USA, it combines the thrill of roller coasters and live performances with the lasting allure of music. For example, the park's signature coaster — Led Zeppelin, The Ride — is synchronized to the band's 1969 hit "Whole Lotta Love."
Getting the park financed was a bit of a roller-coaster ride itself. "In any complicated project, convincing investors that you can build something like this on time and on budget is difficult, especially when the theme-park industry doesn't have a reputation for doing that," says Goodwin. In addition to individual investors, Goodwin secured $305 million in bonds for construction of the park, which had a soft opening in mid-April.
While building a park during an economic slowdown has been challenging, analysts
are optimistic. Amusement Industry Consulting's Jerry Aldrich says its location may appeal to travelers who don't want to trek to Orlando or Las Vegas. "People are taking shorter, more-localized vacations," he says. "And since Myrtle Beach can be a destination in itself, that may play well for Hard Rock Park." Others are watching carefully: developers in Arizona are hoping to secure $750 million in state revenue bonds to build a similar park between Phoenix and Tucson.