Ten years since the Myrtle Beach Pavilion closed? Really? Tempus fugit. The downtown amusement park was a second home to Kimberly Holmes Gary. “I grew up in the Pavilion. After school, I’d be sitting in a food stand, eating a foot-long hot dog. My first job was helping in an ice cream stand. When I was 15, I worked the games.”
Gary’s daddy, James Holmes, 83, worked at the Pavilion for 43 years, retiring before the iconic attraction went silent on Sept. 30, 2006. “He would pick me up after my half-day of kindergarten at Lakewood Elementary and I would stay until my mom could pick me up or daddy could take me home.”
Mayor John Rhodes said the Pavilion was the “beating heart of Myrtle Beach.”
For most of six decades, the Pavilion helped Myrtle Beach stand out as an East Coast beach town destination. So tourists from several states away, as well as locals such as Gary and her siblings, have fond memories of their first roller coaster rides, first dances and first kisses, as Chloe Johnson reported in an article on the 10th anniversary of the closing. The report captures many great memories – and the still-to-be determined role of the site in the future of the downtown.
Burroughs and Chapin owns the 12-acre grassy site. The company took a lot of public criticism for closing the Pavilion and the action was difficult for Egerton Burroughs, director emeritus. “That was one of the saddest days of my life. It broke my heart, but it’s a business and the business model changed. The downtown area is still struggling and having problems with many different things.”
Many critics of the closing speak as though they know the business and financial facts, when, of course, they are completely outside of Burroughs and Chapin. No doubt, the closing was stressful on other businesses in the area. In 2006, the boardwalk was not constructed, the Skywheel was not in place. Broadway at the Beach had been in operation for several years.
Buz Plyler, owner of the popular Gay Dolphin Gift Cove, credits the boardwalk for pulling people into the area. “The boardwalk has been a tremendous attraction. Half the people [that come in] are on the boardwalk, or more, and the other half are on the street.” Plyler says his business was down 6 percent the first year after the Pavilion closed. He has seen a gain in revenue every year since. “Now the traffic is actually maybe [50 percent] more than it was in the best year of the Pavilion.”
The 12-acre grassy lot could figure in redevelopment of the downtown. The possible revitalization was part of the discussion on Sept. 20 when the Myrtle Beach City Council had a wide-ranging discussion of goals. However, the city does not own – and has not attempted to purchase – the former Pavilion site.
The site likely will continue to frustrate city officials and other downtown business owners. Burroughs and Chapin “never had any plans of any prominent large project there,” Burroughs says. “It’s a big problem that covers an awful lot of land, and it’s going to take a lot of thought.”