Fans of this site know that Hard Rock Park holds a special place in my heart for how ground breaking it was in so many ways and for what the future could have been. Residents of Myrtle Beach have been driving by the former site for years peering over the fences, looking for any signs of activity to see if the current owners would finally revive the park in any way.
In reality, the park has been quite busy from within the gates over the past few weeks as Freestyle Park management has decided to sell off the rides via sites like Ital International. Some of the rides have already been sold and packed up to move while others needed a little more TLC to get up and running again to have buyers see what they are getting into.
Maximum RPM was easily the move infamous coaster in the former Hard Rock/Freestyle Music Park, mostly because no one in the world had done a ferris wheel lift like that before. The ride was plagued with problems and unfortunately wasn’t ready for the grand opening of Hard Rock Park in the summer of 2008, mostly due to bugs that needed to get worked out of the system.
Premier Rides never built a full scale version of the ride, so Hard Rock Park got to be the guinea pig for the working prototype. Jon Binkowski and his team knew that the ride wasn’t going to be 100% perfect and were prepared to deal with some downtimes. The trade off was Hard Rock Park got a first-of-its-kind ride that now lives in the halls of theme park history.
The good news is? Maximum RPM is now for sale. I recently spoke with Brian Ondrey of Irvine Ondrey Engineering who was tasked to bring the roller coaster back to life after sitting idle for roughly three years. Brian’s background is programing and electrical for ride operating systems, so this isn’t exactly new territory for him.
However, this project was a little different. Brian is used to setting up control systems for rides in either existing parks or new ones like Kentucky Kingdom, which will be reopening next year. He has never had to work on a ride in an abandoned theme park before that will never reopen and described the experience as surreal.
Brian told me that when he tried to fire up the ferris wheel lift hill for the first time in over three years, he was nearly drenched in about 10 gallons of water. Turns out that some of the crevices in the wheel had filled with rain water over the years and created quite a small shower the first time the wheel started to turn again.
The good news is, despite the ride having a bit of a rocky start getting up and running in 2008, for the most part, Brian said that once he got a handful of motors that needed some repair after sitting idle for so long up and running, the ride worked just fine. The downside is, the on-board audio for the trains was not running. Previous maintenance teams had locked out the charging stations to power the batteries for the audio to run, and that wasn’t a major concern for the current owners.
The real goal was to get the the cars to cycle the track again without issue. As of when Brian arrived, there were two trains on the track that he could use for testing while the rest sat in storage in the back of the park, further away from the elements.
Brian never got to ride Maximum RPM, as he never got a chance to visit Hard Rock Park while it was open and unfortunately, didn’t get to ride it this time either. Just because the ride is operational, doesn’t mean that state inspectors have come in and given it their seal of approval for riders. This is something the new owners will have to deal with and different states have different laws and codes to meet, so you won’t see potential buyers whizzing around the track
Brian also got a chance to help out on the former Led Zeppelin coaster as well, which is also now operational so buyers can see the ride in action. While it has also had some wear and tear due to it not being used in years, Brian said it is in pretty good shape and is now operational as well.
Even the maintenance bay was operational at Maximum RPM, turns out this baby was built pretty well! When I asked Brian if there was anything strange or out of the ordinary that he encountered, he did mention one thing.
This paper towel dispenser was mounted ten feet off the ground in the maintenance bay, for reasons even he can’t quite figure out. Perhaps the previous maintenance crew also enjoyed stilt walking? Not exactly sure.
My many thanks to Brian of Irvine Ondrey Engineering, take a moment and like their Facebook Page. These guys are theme park fans just like you and I, and are always willing to share some great stories.