By early June, guitar licks from the Eagles and the Moody Blues will waft across Myrtle Beach, S.C., as Hard Rock Park, the world’s first rock ’n’ roll theme park, opens to the public.
The 55-acre (22 ha), $400 million amusement park will open to the general public by May 9, with the two rock super groups slated to kick off the official grand opening June 2 and 3.
Hard Rock Park is the first venture into theme park entertainment for the Hard Rock brand, which is found on 138 cafes, hotels and casinos around the world.
According to the developer, designer and builder, HRP Myrtle Beach Operations LLC, Hard Rock Park is the single largest tourism investment in South Carolina history.
The LLC is made up of the executive management team of Steven Goodwin, Felix Mussenden and Jon Binkowski, the designers and developers of the park’s concepts, and a group of prominent local and international investors.
Goodwin, Mussenden and Binkowski are the park’s builders and operators, as well.
Construction began in March 2006 on a 140-acre (57 ha) tract just west of the Intracoastal Waterway on the old Waccamaw Pottery Mall site. The ground up project included facilities, rides, utility distribution, bridge construction, wood and concrete pile driving, marine construction, area development and pavement.
Colorado-based Hensel Phelps Construction Co. is the project’s general contractor through its Orlando, Fla., office. The firm also is working on the park’s buildings and the structural concrete for the ride foundations. Additionally, A.O. Hardee & Son of Little River, S.C., is handling the site work and the primary storm drainage, while Hayward Baker is responsible for the stone column foundations and driven pile and Cape Romain Contractors is doing the marine foundations for the bridges, docks and roller coasters.
Other major subcontractors include RH Moore Co. of Murrells Inlet, S.C., which is installing the underground utilities; and Mosley Erecting of Richburg, S.C., the company in charge of erecting the park’s roller coasters.
As many as 600 construction workers were used for approximately three months of the construction process with an average of 300 at any one time over the duration of the two-year project.
With the park being so close to the ocean, one would think that weather might wreak havoc on the construction process. According to Cory Olson of Hensel Phelps, though, the weather was “fairly cooperative.” Much of the concrete hardscape was pushed into the rainy season of this past winter, which caused the park to be re-graded several times. The impermeability of the soil played as much of a factor as did the overall volume of rain, Olson said.
He described the native soil at the site as “gumbo.” The clay material proved to be a major challenge from the outset of the site work and underground utilities all the way through the completion of the hardscape.
“This gumbo required the import of very substantial amounts fill material for building pads and roads and the addition of a building foundation perimeter and hardscape underdrain system all to deal with the absolute impermeability of the soil,” Olson said.
“We had to import a lot of gravel material here at the end just to get control of the site,” Olson explained. “We had to do that around the perimeter of the buildings. So while we were putting in wood trim and doing the painting on the interiors, we were still mucking around on the exterior of the buildings.”
Olson said the construction site was relatively balanced.
“We were able to use the material that was here, spread it around and get to the grade that we needed,” he said.
Among the pieces of earthmoving equipment used on the site was the Case 650K crawler dozer, rented to the project by Sunbelt Rentals in Myrtle Beach. This dozer proved to be a workhorse on this job, according to Sunbelt’s George Willis. Sunbelt was one of three companies providing rented equipment to the Hard Rock Park project, the others being Neff Rental of Myrtle Beach and All Carolina Crane of Wilmington, N.C.
Bobcat mini-excavators proved invaluable on the project, Willis said. Track loaders, made by both Bobcat and John Deere, also were very effective in working in the often-muddy ground at the work site.
Approximately 14,000 cu. yd. (10,700 cu m) of building and ride foundation concrete was poured at the Hard Rock Park site, with another 7,500 cu. yd. (5,700 cu m) of concrete hardscape. Asphalt parking for roughly 5,000 cars was put down, along with associated circulation roads. A new bridge also is being constructed that will connect U.S. Highway 17 to the theme park entrance. It is scheduled for completion in 2009.
Workers also used both electric and rough-terrain scissor lifts manufactured by Genie and JLG throughout the park. In addition, Genie and JLG made many of the articulating personnel lifts, ideal for reaching up and over machines and other obstacles, and straight boom personnel lifts, designed for extended reach capability of up to 135 ft. (41 m). One of those personnel lifts was responsible for erecting the iconic 50-ft.-high Gibson guitar that welcomes guests into the theme park.
Bolliger & Mabillard, a Swiss firm known worldwide for its roller coasters, designed “Led Zeppelin – The Ride.”
The 155-ft.-high roller coaster roars along at speeds up to 65 mph. As passengers are propelled through six inversions, including a 120-ft. loop, they do so to Led Zeppelin’s megahit “Whole Lotta Love” being blasted through the ride’s high-fidelity on-board audio system.
Mosley Erecting was in charge of building that attraction, along with the park’s other rides and roller coasters. Company owner Ronnie Mosley and his crew used a Grove 50-ton (45 t) hydraulic crane and two crawler cranes, a 110-ton (100 t) behemoth and a smaller 90-ton (81.6 t) model, both made by Link-Belt.
The park is located along the south side of U.S. Highway 501, Myrtle Beach’s main thoroughfare, just 3 mi. from the Atlantic Ocean.
The park boasts 10 rides, including five roller coasters; live music shows; and attractions; as well as a number of restaurants and shops. CEG