Chinese investors headed to Myrtle Beach in April with a $100 million funding commitment will be searching for the new location to develop a Chinese cultural village, local officials announced Friday.
Horry County Council Chairman Mark Lazarus and Myrtle Beach Mayor John Rhodes said the park will be similar to Epcot at Disney World. It will feature a building shaped like a lantern draped with silk, restaurants and shows featuring Chinese entertainers, light shows at night, and offer classes on cooking, paper cutting, and calligraphy.
If it’s done right, it could be a tremendous tourism attraction that would take Myrtle Beach to another level of entertainment.
Myrtle Beach Mayor John Rhodes
In addition to attracting Asian American tourists, the officials said the Chinese investors would promote the park in their own country. Delta Air Lines is planning to begin direct flights from China to Atlanta this summer, which brings Myrtle Beach just one stop away, Rhodes said.
While the entertainers will be from China, the officials said locals will also be hired to manage and work at the park.
“This is not about bringing low-wage Chinese workers to the U.S.,” Lazarus said.
Rhodes emphasized that Mandarin language classes would be offered at the park for youngsters in 4th and 5th grade.
“We would like to see Mandarin taught in the schools,” Rhodes said. “We’re in business with China, we need to teach our youth how to speak Mandarin.”
A local architect is already under contract to draw up the designs, and the park is expected to open in the fall of 2017 or early in 2018. Lazarus said three locations are under consideration, but declined to reveal the sites.
The Sun News reported last month that documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act revealed Chinese investors were inquiring about the owners, debt and development plans of the old Hard Rock Park property near U.S. 501 and George Bishop Parkway.
Asked if the cultural theme park was similar to Asian Wonderland that was proposed in 2014 but never came to fruition, the officials confirmed that it was.
Asian Wonderland was estimated to cost up to $20 million to construct permanent buildings, tents and a lantern display, and would have included live performances.
Lazarus and Rhodes traveled to China earlier this year for a 16-day visit with business leaders and brokered the $100 million investment deal.
The officials said investors did not ask for incentives or tax breaks, but admitted they expect to hear grumblings from the community about the deal.
“We’re going to be criticized, people will say the Chinese are going to take over Myrtle Beach,” Rhodes said. “We have to adapt to change — to people making investments in our community to help Myrtle Beach grow.”
Audrey Hudson 843-444-1765; Twitter @AudreyHudson