Myrtle Beach's WonderWorks draws crowd at opening day

After yearlong construction, attraction wins over kids

jspring@thesunnew.comApril 5, 2011 

A crowd packed into a small shack Monday to feel hurricane-force winds next to the tilting deck of the Titanic as it gradually sinks. Nearby, a wannabe pitcher fired fastballs past Derek Jeter as a girl prepared to ride a bike upside down.

At science attraction WonderWorks official opening Monday, visitors experienced it all under one roof - or in this case, under one floor. The four-level building that took a year to construct resembles an upside-down museum, as if uprooted by a natural disaster.

As children ran about the displays and interactive exhibits Monday, each gravitated toward their own favorite, including giant bubble making and a bed of nails.

Johnny Miller Krieger and his son, on vacation from Greensboro, N.C., were the first to ride the "build your own" roller coaster Monday.

"I put in as many loops as I could in it," 9-year-old Johnny Race Krieger said. "I wish I didn't put all those loops in it because I didn't know it would go upside down. At one point I was frozen upside down."

Waiting in line for the noon opening, Jeff Gentry of Kentucky said he had tracked the opening on Facebook and contacted staff for updates for a month before this week's opening. After sending many back-and-forth emails with staff, Gentry said he was pleased that the opening fell on his son's spring break.

"He was talking about the bed of nails," his wife, Jamilee Gentry, said of their 10-year-old son. "He always wanted to do it and was like, 'Is it going to hurt?'"

Not all of the kinks were worked out for the official opening. A group of three women gave up using an exhibit billed as a time machine after it asked them to install software. The Major League Baseball pitching simulator didn't work at first but was up and running within an hour. A few exhibits were still marked "under construction" and an arcade will be installed on the fourth floor sometime this week, General Manager Robert Stinnett said

Operations were going relatively smoothly Monday, Stinnett said.

"The general public can be hard on things. People tinker with things," he said. "You're always working on it."

The staff resolved most of the attraction's difficulties during soft openings on Saturday and Sunday, when visitors were charged a discount admission during limited hours, Stinnett said. Even without advertising, he said, 900 people came Saturday.

The yearlong construction of the building was enough advertising to draw some, including Carol Ruane of Calabash, N.C., who came with her neighbor on Monday.

"It was just curiosity, watching the building go up," Ruane said, explaining why she came. "Someone said it was a science [museum]."

Contact JAKE SPRING at 626-0310 or follow him at Twitter.com/TSN_JakeSpring.

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