Established June 2, 2008 - Closed November 2, 2008
2008 season: Hard Rock ParkMore
Established June 2, 2008 - Closed November 2, 2008
2008 season: Hard Rock Park
The grand opening celebration as Hard Rock Park on June 2, 2008, featured a concert by Eagles and The Moody Blues. The park featured six "rock environs" celebrating rock's culture, lifestyle, legends and irreverence. These rock environs included the All Access Entry Plaza, Rock & Roll Heaven, British Invasion, Lost in the 70's, Born in the USA and Cool Country. At opening, the park had amusement rides, live shows, interactive elements, kids play areas, gardens, shopping and dining attractions. The main attractions of the park were the roller coasters and live shows that were set to music. The park included an amphitheater with 10,000-person capacity featuring live daily shows and special performances. Other amusements included a carousel, a water play structure and swings. Most attractions prominently featured music, bands, and rock memorabilia like its cafe counterpart.
The park opened to positive reviews. The Times of London's writer Chris Haslam concluded that America's newest theme park brought the genre "from the preschool plastic of Disney to a new age of insubordinate adolescence through a combination of nerdy attention to detail, startling irreverence and sly wit." Beth J. Harpaz, Associated Press travel editor, declared Nights in White Satin: The Trip as one of her all-time favorite rides from any park. However, Hard Rock Park had stated the park could accommodate up to 30,000 visitors a day, and in light of the frozen credit markets during the financial crisis of 2007–2008, the park could not secure sufficient finance to underwrite its planned advertising campaign. As the 2008 economic downturn deepened during the summer, high gas and hotel prices coupled with limited advertising by the park led to lower-than-expected attendance. The park cited "macroeconomic conditions that significantly depressed overall demand in the travel and leisure industry" and a lack of cash to advertise. The park had borrowed a lot of money and could not convince investors to provide more help to keep the park going.
Changes were made to operating hours and planned operating days. The original closing time of 1 a.m. was moved up to 10 p.m. in August and the park moved to weekend-only operations after Labor Day. With an earlier end-of-season planned on November 2, the park scheduled no concerts past August 30.
Early closure, bankruptcy and new owners
In September 2008, HRP investor Africa Israel Investments decided to write off its entire $10 million investment in the park "due to liquidity difficulties the park is experiencing". Hard Rock Park then announced that they were ending the 2008 season over a month early, laying off most of the employees, and had filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. At the time of the filing, the park expressed hopes of reopening in 2009; the following month the company announced plans to sell the park. In January 2009, the company converted to Chapter 7.
In February 2009, the Delaware bankruptcy court declined to force an auction and approved the sale of the park to FPI MB Entertainment (FPI) for $25 million. FPI MB Entertainment was a joint venture of FPI US LLC, a company incorporated in Delaware, and MB Entertainment. The partners included Roundbox Advisors, Freestyle Park International, Baker Leisure Group, and two of the park's original owners, Thomas M. Hiles and D. Tim Duncan. Baker Leisure Group managed the day-to-day park operations. FPI had to completely re-skin and overhaul the park to comply with court rulings.
On April 2, 2009, the new owners announced that the Hard Rock name would be dropped. While Hard Rock International had been willing to continue use of the name if conditions could be met, the owners felt that changing the name would give the park a more positive image since the old name was connected with the bankruptcy; also, the "Hard Rock" name was not considered family-oriented. Because of the name change, the bankruptcy court required all Hard Rock merchandise to be destroyed.
Later that month, FPI unveiled a new name for the park: Freestyle Music Park, stating that it would pay homage to a variety of musical genres, including rock n' roll, country, reggae, beach music, pop, R&B, alternative, Christian, disco, and rap. The name does not refer to the Latin music genre, according to sales and marketing director John Stine.
In May 2009, HRP Creative Services Co. wanted to make certain attractions separate from the park the new owners planned, with former park CEO Steven Goodwin wanting the new owners to pay royalties. However, a Delaware federal judge said on March 30 that some of the previous owners still owned intellectual property rights relating to the original theme. The original owners then sued FPI, claiming they had not done enough to change the park, and that the new owners were using intellectual property that was not theirs. This action threatened to delay the reopening.
On June 22, 2009, the county planning commission agreed to change the name of Hard Rock Parkway to Fantasy Harbour Boulevard. FPI agreed to pay part of the cost for new signs. Businesses located on the road would have to pay their own expenses as the road, once called Outlet Boulevard, received its second name change in two years. By mid-September, five of the seven signs on the street itself had been changed. citation from Wikipedia https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Freestyle_Music_Park