Billed as the world’s first rock and roll theme park, Hard Rock Park opened its gates to the public in the spring of 2008. One of the first things visitors saw when they walked through the gates was a giant electric guitar—rising 90 feet over the park’s central lagoon, the statue loomed into view as park-goers strolled past the bell towers of the entry plaza, modeled after the buildings in the cover art of Hotel California.
Many of these ideas were provocative, especially for a family attraction in conservative South Carolina. It wasn’t just the obvious examples, like the acid-trip ghost train or the psychedelic carousel called Magic Mushroom Garden; the park was full of little details that raised eyebrows.
A section of Life In The Fast Lane, a rollercoaster named after the Eagles song, rolled past a sculpture of a pregnant woman whose belly was pierced from the inside by a baby making the hand-horns gesture. Restaurants included the “Eat Me” Diner and a fish-and-chips stall called The Cod Piece; a rock-focused tribute to a famous Michelangelo fresco led to accusations of blasphemy.
The descent of the park into its current derelict state was long and messy. The owners continued to grapple with investors over debt repayments and asset seizures; a local Christian non-profit group tried to crowdsource funds to buy the property and turn it into an education and entertainment complex, but came up short; the owners later sold four acres of the park to Medieval Times, the castle-shaped dinner theater on the neighboring plot, which used the land to graze and exercise its horses.