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Alternatives sought for park

A company interested in running Hard Rock Park had a conference call Thursday with city and county officials, asking them to help work out a deal to save the property, officials said.

The company, PARC Management, told the public officials that there were no bidders with enough money for the $400 million theme park, which filed for bankruptcy in September and went to auction on Monday.

By late Thursday there was no official word on the outcome of hearings scheduled in the bankruptcy court in Delaware.

A spokeswoman from the Paul, Hastings, Janofsky & Walker law firm, which represents the park, said the firm could not comment.

Officials from PARC, which did not submit an official bid, said during the afternoon conference call that they wanted to see what kind of city and county help was available. They asked the city and county to each chip in $5 million to put together financing, Myrtle Beach Mayor John Rhodes said.

“There's no way that can be done,” he said. “We just told them, `Sorry.' We don't have that kind of funds to commit to something that is - it's a big gamble.”

The whole conversation took about 15 minutes, said Horry County Attorney John Weaver, who was on the call, along with the city manager, county administrator, county council chairwoman and the director of the Myrtle Beach Regional Economic Development Corp.

“It was nothing more than a passing thought that did not get anywhere, and they understood the position that the governments were in,” Weaver said. “It was all hocus pocus in my opinion.”

Besides the economic difficulty of such a feat, any action on the part of city or county councils would be as “slow as molasses,” and it would take until at least the spring until anything could be finalized, he said.

Weaver said that would not be fast enough for bankruptcy proceedings.

PARC already owns a few attractions in Myrtle Beach - the NASCAR SpeedPark and Myrtle Waves - but it wants to buy more, company Chief Executive Randy Drew said.

The company was contacted after the auction ended, he said in a statement.

If nobody buys the park, the bank could foreclose on the property, Weaver said. But it would cost more money to dismantle and move the rock 'n' roll park's rides to another location than it would be worth, he said. Park officials have said the park has 55 acres of rides and 140 acres of total property.

“It's a heck of a mess,” Weaver said. “Nobody wants it as it is, where it is. ... That's valuable property if it was clear dirt.”

The minimum bid price for the park was set at $35 million.

Many in the tourism industry had hoped the park would be a hit, drawing new visitors to an area that had more hotel and lodging rooms than its 14 million visitors a year could fill. Also, the park was expected to employ 3,000 people, though that number eventually topped off at 2,000.

Now, people just hope that it falls in the hands of someone who will get it running again.

“Everybody was hoping somebody would come in there and make it operational so it wouldn't be a blight,” Weaver said.

There are several local and state incentives for companies who want to buy the park, including property tax breaks, job credits, job training programs and sales tax credits.