Bids due for Hard Rock Park auction

Bidders are supposed to head to a national law firm's New York office today to bid on Hard Rock Park.

But it's unclear whether there will be any buyers at the auction, which has a minimum price of $35 million for either the entire park or its assets. The park's lawyers did not respond to repeated requests for comment, and the clerk at the Delaware court ruling over the bankruptcy said she could not explain the procedure.

The auction is open to all creditors and is supposed to be transcribed, according to court documents. The winning bid, if there is one, will be made public, and the judge will have to approve of the sale at a hearing set for Thursday.

Officials from Myrtle Beach, Horry County and the local business community have been showing several potential bidders around the property off U.S. 501 during the past few weeks, but they do not know whether the companies will actually bite. Hard Rock Park filed for bankruptcy in September after a disappointing five-month run.

"I can't tell you if anyone is going to make a bid or meet that minimum [bid], but I do think that there is serious interest in the property," said Chad Prosser, the director of the S.C. Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism. He said the bidders had a "sober realization" that it would cost millions of dollars to get the park ready for business.

If nobody bids, the park could be liquidated by its creditors, said David Skeel, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania Law School.

One bidder said there was not enough time to research the park before the auction, said Horry County attorney John Weaver. The bidder asked Hugh Owens, head of the Myrtle Beach Regional Economic Development Corp., and County Council Chairwoman Liz Gilland to write letters in support of pushing the auction back, he said.

Starting bids were due Friday, and bidders were required to show they could pay a 10 percent down payment and had a net worth of at least $10 million, along with some other requirements.

PARC Management has submitted a letter of interest. PARC has more than a dozen water, amusement and theme parks across the country, including several that are bigger than Hard Rock Park's 55 acres.

The company, however, has told Hard Rock Park it is still interested in operating the park, perhaps with a financial partner, company Chief Executive Officer Randy Drew said.

PARC, which recently purchased the NASCAR SpeedParks and Myrtle Waves from Burroughs & Chapin Co. Inc., is interested in buying more amusements in Myrtle Beach, he said.

If the company ends up in charge of Hard Rock Park, it will have to put tens of millions of dollars of upgrades into the property, Drew said.

Also, it will not keep the Hard Rock brand, which it said is not family friendly.

"The brand is an expensive brand, and it works in a number of contexts very well," he said. "We think we can tell a story that is more consistent with family values."

That is, a theme that doesn't prompt parents to explain a magic mushroom to their children, why actors in a stunt show emerged from a smoke-filled van and why Nights In White Satin is a "trip" - all seen in Hard Rock Park.

Drew said the company would also sell tickets at lower prices and perhaps work with other local companies to sell tickets or packages.

"We have the financing necessary to make the acquisition," he said.

"We think that if we can take time, all of the economy will come back."

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