Pavilion rides come alive again at nostalgia park

MYRTLE BEACH -- Rides that once entertained folks at the beloved Pavilion amusement park came back to life when The Pavilion Nostalgia Park opened Wednesday morning at Broadway at the Beach.

The collection of familiar rides -- including the pirate ship, the tea cups, the motorcycle ride and the boat ride -- were moved from the 58-year-old oceanfront park that closed last year and reassembled at the complex, which, like the Pavilion, is owned by Burroughs & Chapin Co.

Many visitors were delighted by the new attraction.

"It just kind of makes you feel back at home in Myrtle Beach," said Jodie Yount of Cary, N.C., who hung out at the Myrtle Beach Pavilion Amusement Park as a teenager.

The new park is just one aspect of the Grand Strand's changing amusement park landscape as residents and visitors adjust to life during the lull between the closing of two local amusement parks -- The Pavilion and the Grand Prix Family Thrill Park in North Myrtle Beach -- and the opening of the Hard Rock Park, slated for 2008.

The changes have led more visitors to other area amusement parks such as the Slick Track Family Amusement Park in Garden City and Family Kingdom on Fourth Avenue South in Myrtle Beach, but it's unclear what the long-term effects will be.

"We used to go to The Pavilion, and now that it's closed, what's next?" asked Joe Bernhartt as his 9-year-old daughter played a toy guitar in the Hard Rock Park's preview center Wednesday.

Though the two loved going to The Pavilion when they visited grandpa in Myrtle Beach, they can't wait to try out the rides at the new park after they got a glimpse of what's in store.

The park will feature a Led Zeppelin-themed roller coaster, a swing ride, a "Slippery When Wet" splashy suspended coaster, a 15-foot twirling blacklight poster of a mushroom (touted as the world's largest), a live country theater show performed on ice skates, a pub, restaurants and a shake, rattle and roller coaster.

Developers spent more than five years planning the park and raising the $400 million from investors and the bond market to build it, and some say it couldn't come at a better time.

"This park will make people forget about The Pavilion," said Justin Shader, manager of the park's preview center. "It'll blow it out of the water."

But many who grew up riding the carousel and listening to the hand-carved German Baden Band Organ at the historic park beg to differ.

"I actually think it should have been designated a national historic site," said Danny Bordner, who lives near Charlotte and checked out the old photos and memorabilia in the museum at the Nostalgia Park on Wednesday.

"Everything just looks different. It just doesn't seem the same with it not there," said his wife, Gail Bordner.

A 2,800-square foot arcade as well as six rides from the Pavilion were up and running at the Nostalgia Park on Wednesday: the adult and kiddie pirate ships, the tea cup kiddie ride, the motorcycle kiddie ride, the dune buggy and the boat ride.

The Herschell-Spillman Carousel, the Caterpillar Ride and the Wave Swinger Ride will be in operation soon.

Jacqueline Granger of Fayetteville, N.C., and her family agreed, saying the area at 9th Avenue North and Ocean Boulevard seems abandoned. They didn't find out The Pavilion had closed until they got to the beach this summer.

"We walked by, and we said, 'What happened to The Pavilion?'" said Granger, standing near the tract where kiddie rides once stood but now are only mounds of dirt and rubble.

"We come down here to go to The Pavilion," she said. "I thought that would be part of her life, too," she said, pointing to her granddaughter.

Instead, they headed to the beach. Others said they might check out some of the Ripley's attractions or go to Family Kingdom, which is only about a half mile away and also is on the oceanfront.

Since The Pavilion closed, Family Kingdom has seen an uptick in business, with about 6,000 to 7,000 visitors daily, manager Donnie Sipes said.

"We've done a lot of advertising here to let people know that there's another amusement park in town other than The Pavilion," Sipes said.

He wasn't sure whether the Hard Rock Park would bring their attendance rates back down.

"That's a $65,000 question. That remains to be seen. We're a seaside park, and there are a lot of people who stay on the beach, so hopefully, it won't impact us too much," he said.

If anything, the Hard Rock park bring more people to the beach who will spend one day at the Hard Rock and the remainder of their vacations at other area attractions, said Eric McGee, general manager of the amusement park in Garden City.

"There will be more people in town, and they're not going to do the Hard Rock every day," he said.

At this point, the impact is something that residents, tourists and business owners are still waiting to find out.

"This is what we're all talking about, everybody in the business," McGee said.