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Beyond the gates: Go inside the former Hard Rock and Freestyle park in Myrtle Beach

A look at the former Hard Rock and Freestyle Park, which has new owners

A look at the former Hard Rock and Freestyle Park, which has new owners. Former Myrtle Beach Mayor John Rhodes, who says he is the managing partner of the new ownership group, doesn’t have any immediate plans for the 140-acre property.
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A look at the former Hard Rock and Freestyle Park, which has new owners. Former Myrtle Beach Mayor John Rhodes, who says he is the managing partner of the new ownership group, doesn’t have any immediate plans for the 140-acre property.

The only noise you hear these days at the former amusement complex previously known as Hard Rock Park and Freestyle Music Park is the wind whistling through abandoned buildings and an occasional bird chirp or squawk.

There’s not likely to be any more activity on the Fantasy Harbour property any time soon despite it gaining new owners about three months ago.

Former Myrtle Beach Mayor John Rhodes, who says he is the managing partner of the new ownership group, doesn’t have any immediate plans for the 140-acre property.

It has been largely quiet since shutting down after the summer of 2009. The park failed twice in two years at the onset of a deep financial recession in the U.S., first as Hard Rock during the summer of 2008 then as Freestyle in 2009.

Rhodes said he’s not against selling it undeveloped.

“There’s no rush to it because, hell, somebody might want it worse than I do,” Rhodes said. “There’s always that possibility. You never know. That’s why I’m not in a rush.

“I’ve got some ideas, but I’ve got to find out from the contractor if any of those ideas will work for the building. Then I may have to raise some more money.”

No immediate plan

Though Rhodes applied for permits to clean up the site, no work is imminent.

“Right now there is no definite plan,” Rhodes said. “Basically we’re just getting everything cleaned up and talking to the contractor who originally built those buildings.”

The large building that once was Mall 3 of the Waccamaw Factory Shoppes may be the first part of the theme park to be repurposed.

Rhodes said Mike Harrington and Harrington Construction built the former Factory Shoppes mall buildings, and the third mall building at the corner of Outlet Boulevard and George Bishop Parkway was incorporated into Freestyle Park.

Rhodes said he believes a train ride went through it, though it was primarily used for storage and maintenance headquarters, and he’s now exploring its possible uses. He plans to go through the building with Harrington.

“You’ve got to know what’s in the building,” Rhodes said. “You’ve got to know how the building is laid out and what kind of electrical system is there and that kind of stuff so I can have a real grip on what I have to work with.”

Rhodes was interested in a multipurpose arena that could host concerts, ice hockey, etc., until he discovered the 10,000-seat Florence (Civic) Center cost $22 million to build in 1993, and today he estimates it would be close to $40 million.

“I would have to find investors willing to put up the money,” Rhodes said. “I didn’t win the lottery, so I don’t have it.”

Business partners

Rhodes won’t disclose his business partners in FPP George Bishop Parkway LLC, the company that purchased the park. “I don’t have to,” he said. “It’s nobody’s business but mine.”

The group paid more than $3.5 million for the former theme park in early January, and a $20 million mortgage was also paid off on the property — Rhodes said by the sellers from Russia.

The $20 million mortgage was recorded in December 2011 by FPI US LLC, which is registered in Delaware. The lender was Ysanne Trading Limited, which Horry County Register of Deeds Marion Foxworth said is organized in the British Virgin Islands with a mailing address in Cypress.

As part of the purchase by FPP George Bishop Parkway LLC that was recorded on Jan. 2, the $20 million mortgage was satisfied in Cypress, and Myrtle Beach attorney Shep Guyton presented the Register of Deeds office paperwork showing the satisfaction of that mortgage.

Rhodes said the mortgage was paid by the sellers, who he believes sold the rides and amusements for more than that.

In 2013, the owners of the park began selling off its rides, with many of them going to Vietnam.

The land is currently zoned as a planned development district, according to the GIS map, with a variety of options including a mix of residential and commercial.

“You just sit back and wait,” said Rhodes, who said there were other contracts on the property in recent years before his purchase closed. “It took me four years to get it.”

Alan Blondin covers golf, Coastal Carolina athletics and numerous other sports-related topics that warrant coverage. Well-versed in all things Myrtle Beach, Horry County and the Grand Strand, the Northeastern University journalism school valedictorian has been a sports reporter at The Sun News since 1993, earning eight top-10 Associated Press Sports Editors national writing awards and 18 top-three S.C. Press Association writing awards since 2007.


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