Hard Rock Park is dead. Long live 'Freestyle Music Park'

We have a resolution to a problem covered on these pages a few weeks ago. Steven Goodwin's ploy to force the struggling Hard Rock Park in Myrtle Beach to pay him $500,000 a year plus 1.5% of revenues for the use of the name has ended with empty pockets. Rather than indulge him, the new owners of the park simply renamed it, cutting Goodwin out of the deal. It's now going to be known as Freestyle Music Park. The party will go on, only without the metal-band hair.

A New Look for Old Brands

    What Changed: Pillsbury is going for more soothing tones in these tough economic times with its first re-branding campaign in years. The Pillsbury Dough Boy is still around, but the focus is on happy families gathering around a table of tasty food.

    Paul Sakuma, AP

    What changed: Little girls have been inundated with Disney princess paraphernalia for years now, and the line has been so popular that the company wants to try to do the same thing with fairies. Tinker Bell, a mere side character in J.M. Barrie's 1911 novel and the 1953 movie version of Peter Pan, is going to soon be a leading lady. A straight-to-DVD movie, Tinker Bell, comes out October 28, and that will be followed by a line of books, toys, lip gloss and stationary. The new line could mean big bucks as Tink already brings in about $800 million in retail sales for existing products.

    AP | Disney

    What changed: Pepsi has unveiled its fifth new logo in 2 decades, right, as part of a new plan to redefine itself as a cultural leader. The redesigned Pepsi packages should hit store shelves early next year. Mountain Dew and Sierra Mist drinks will also get a new look.

    AP / Pepsico

    What changed: For the first time, Long John Silver's will be offering its first non-fried items. The Freshside Grille selections includePacific Salmon (pictured), Shrimp Scampi and Tilapia.

    YUM! / AP

    What changed: The national restaurant chain went through a drastic decor makeover in 2008 to make the furnishings more upscale and sleek from its former look with Tiffany-style lamps and antiques. Total cost? $65 million. When the company got to the last of its locations, it staged a mock explosion, blowing up the interior and replaying the action on YouTube. Now all 600 locations of the 36-year-old chain have a modern look with black awnings outside and black-and-white checked tablecloths inside, plus a new straightforward logo.


    What changed: Popeye's is sporting a new look with an orange and red logo with the words "Louisiana Kitchen" set off by fleur-de-lis designs and a giant "P" in the middle – the better to emphasize the almost 40-year-old chain's New Orleans roots. Gone is the blue-bordered logo that the company deemed not fancy enough to go after the upscale audience it seeks to court. The logo makeover comes in conjunction with a new $1.49 menu that will include a loaded chicken wrap, the delta mini sandwich and a chicken biscuit. New commercials will feature a fictional chef named Ed, who sits with diners and talks about his food.


    What changed: Chex Party Mix, invented in 1955, will get a makeover with new recipes, new packaging and a new spokeschef, Katie Lee Joel, (pictured in the center, with Suzanne M. Grimes, president, Food & Entertaining at Readers Digest on the right and Cheri Olerud, senior cookbook editor and test kitchen expert for Chex cereal on the left.

    Business Wire

    What changed: The venerable crock pot, long a staple of the American kitchen, is trying to become the ultimate multi-tasker for the contemporary two-income family that wants to eat healthy. Crock Pot's owner, Jarden Consumer Solutions, wants the slow cooker to become a "trophy" product that people want to give as gifts and buy for themselves. So new cookers will come in bright colors – no more cream and burgundy – and will feature updated packaging that evokes savory root vegetables rather than grandma's quilt.

    Crock-Pot | Hughes Design Group

    What changed: The 400-location hotel worldwide hotel chain is in the middle of a $1.7 billion project to renovate about half its U.S. hotels. The new look includes brighter colors in the room, with pillowtop beds and white duvets and flat-screen TVs. Sheraton is rolling out a branded line of toiletries, called Shine by Bliss, and fitness centers will get upgrades. Lobbies will feature restaurants, most with a casual dining chain called Relish, and cafes with Internet stations. Some locations may also have a steakhouse developed by Shula's.


    What changed: Now owned by Stride Rite, which re-acquired the rights to the sneaker brand from hip-hop mogul Damon Dash (a recent foreclosure victim), PRO-Keds are going to get a makeover as they come back into the fold. Stride Rite will focus on classic styles, such as the "Royal" canvas basketball shoe, first introduced in 1949, and give it an overhaul that will hit stores in November and retail for $50 to $80.


Goodwin might have stood a chance of getting a little walking-away money if his demands hadn't been so steep. Then again, the park might have stood a better chance of surviving in the long term if it hadn't adopted such a wishy-washy new name.Still, the new name gives the new park operators wider berth, enabling it to bring in attractions and shows that venture outside the rock 'n' roll genre, including Christian and country, which could bear fruit considering the South Carolina market. The new purview will enable the theme park to more realistically court the family market, which will help it make up for a ride roster than many WalletPop commentators found lacking.

Heavy rock music influences are now being combed out of the park, along with, one would assume, the stigma of the Hard Rock Park name. As the name announcement put it, "many of the rides, restaurants and areas throughout the Park are being re-themed to better fit into the vision of Freestyle Music Park." Freestyle's owners eventually want to take the brand global, if only they can make it out of its first season in Myrtle Beach. The park's new logo is cool, but that heady expansion plan is hard to imagine.

So while Six Flags and other major amusement parks teeter on the abyss, threatening to change American vacationing forever, another theme park is saved from catastrophe -- for now -- along with all those jobs, since the 55-acre Freestyle Music Park is now hiring.

The new name will cut down on the expense of leasing the Hard Rock Park name, but it will also make it harder to market the park, which is about to enter its second season with zero name recognition. Whether it will turn out to be an advance in family vacationing is hard to envision.
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