MYRTLE BEACH – In 2008, the first major new American theme park to open in a decade welcomed visitors to Myrtle Beach.
Backed by the internationally renowned Hard Rock brand and featuring memorabilia including the ‘Magical Mystery Tour’ bus used by the Beatles, it was a $400 million concept, investors say, that would put the Grand Strand competing with other entertainment giants.
But success was faster than the 65mph, Led Zeppelin-themed roller coaster that hurtled riders down an 11-story drop, and by the end of 2009 – mired in legal disputes and foreclosure battles – one of the most catastrophic failures in the history of the industry was over, when the park closed for good.
A much less splashy but more financially sustainable future for the earth appears to be ahead, however, with paperwork filed in Horry County last month for the construction of a 250,000 square foot FedEx building, a workshop for RV repair and a small packing facility on property circled by Fantasy Harbor Boulevard, George Bishop Parkway and Backstage Road.
A county permit application shows construction of the FedEx facility is expected to exceed $12 million.
“I think we’ve all finally recognized that Fantasy Harbor is aptly named, because it was a fantasy that those uses would be,” Myrtle Beach attorney Shep Guyton said during a commission workshop. planning last year, where he requested an extension of distribution. field space as its entertainment uses have been removed.
“The demand seems to be much more consistent for the type of uses we’re looking at right now,” Guyton said.
No timeline was given as to when the projects might kick off, but Jarrett Hucks is paying attention. He is creative director at Beach Church, whose 35,000 square foot building adjoins the land that Hard Rock Park once occupied.
“To tell you the truth, I’m kind of sad to see it go, but at the same time there’s been no restoration,” Hucks said. “Replacing the cemetery of an old theme park will always be an improvement.”
As long as it takes, the new wave of acreage investment should bring stability – something that has worried amusement park industry experts since the genesis of Hard Rock Park.
“It’s a very high price tag at $400 million and the projections they’ve put out are very ambitious,” consultant Dennis Speigel told The Associated Press in a 2008 article highlighting the park.
Speigel said much the same thing years later.
“The Myrtle Beach market does well with impulsive entertainment — like Ripley’s Believe It or Not museum or the downtown Skywheel,” he told the Post and Courier in 2017.
It’s one of the reasons the Family Kingdom amusement park has survived near the waterfront for more than 50 years, he said.
“They want short visits,” Speigel said of Myrtle Beach tourists. “A large theme park is not suitable for this market.”
Chuck Rhome, a member of the Horry County Planning Commission, said last summer that securing the land for commercial development was critical as people continue to move into the area.
“I just took a look at all this vacant land. I’m just thinking, ‘My God, 2,200 people move into Horry County a month, close to the airport, close to (US) 501, how much better could this land be put to use than just staying vacant and doing nothing,'” he said in July.