The Pavilion is Closing

You probably have heard by now, They are closing the Pavilion at Myrtle Beach. Wow, A major part of Myrtle Beach will be missed.

Thanks to Boz Martin for pulling these articles togetherPavilion to Slip Away
Old Myrtle Beach is passing into history

It’s hard to imagine summer in Myrtle Beach without the clacking of the roller coaster, the screams of thrill seekers and the smell of frying funnel cakes emanating from The Myrtle Beach Pavilion Amusement Park. But after the 2006 season, the venerable tourist attraction will close, as its owner, Burroughs & Chapin Co. Inc., announced Thursday.

B&C hasn’t yet unveiled a follow-on mission for the Pavilion acreage, which stretches from the oceanfront to Kings Highway. But a consultant for the company reportedly is working on a plan that would bring visitors to the oceanfront year-round, including a mix of attractions, shops, restaurants and lodging.

Whatever follows the Pavilion on the site is certain to be classy and upscale – and a good thing for the Myrtle Beach tourism economy. But word that the Pavilion is closing provides the most poignant reminder yet that the old Myrtle Beach is passing into history.

– from Myrtle Beach Online (the Sun News)

2006 is last season for MB amusement park
By Dawn Bryant and Emma Ritch
The Sun News
Read Friday’s edition of The Sun News for more coverage.

It’s official: Say good-bye to the Myrtle Beach Pavilion Amusement Park.

The beach’s landmark symbol, which has greeted tourists every summer since 1948, will close after this season, park owner Burroughs & Chapin Co. Inc. announced today.

“A great deal of careful, painstaking thought has gone into making this decision. The Pavilion has been one of the central landmarks of Myrtle Beach tourism for more than 50 years, and no one has a stronger or deeper emotional attachment than the people at Burroughs & Chapin,” said Doug Wendel, president of the company.

The announcement was made at the Grande Dunes Ocean Club.

It’s an emotional move some visitors, and locals, had feared for years, ever since the city’s Downtown Redevelopment Corp. suggested that the park leave the area a few years ago.

The Pavilion has not been a viable venture for B&C for many years, Wendel said, with operational costs growing as revenues decline.

The goal is to replace the rides and funnel cake booths, which only operate during warm weather, with a mix of lodging, shops and attractions that would lure people to the Pavilion area year-round.

Charleston firm LS3P is working on details, but they won’t be ready for another two months.

Board Chairman Egerton Burroughs said today that the company is holding off on announcements about the Pavilion site and about the rides at the park.

“We don’t want to take away from today with what will happen when the park closes,” he said.

The company plans to announce those details after LS3P’s study, Wendel said.

Wendel said the fate of the Pavilion building on the oceanfront is clearer: “My best guess is it will not be there.”

The Pavilion opens on weekends starting March 17 and every day starting April 7. The complex includes an oceanfront arcade, Attic teen nightclub and 49 rides. It stretches from the oceanfront to Kings Highway in the heart of the city.

“We’ve known this is coming for quite some time,” said hotelier Bert Anderson, who is a member of the Downtown Redevelopment Corp.”

– from Myrtle Beach Online (the Sun News)


City Council surprised by closing
By Emma Ritch
The Sun News
Burroughs & Chapin officials stunned Myrtle Beach on Thursday, announcing the closure later this year of the Myrtle Beach Pavilion Amusement Park.

It was a closely held secret, kept even from City Council members and employees of the amusement park until Thursday morning, when B&C revealed the plan during a news conference at the Grande Dunes Ocean Club.

The company gave no details of what could happen to the Pavilion’s site or rides, which will operate through Sept. 24.

Company officials said the decision was difficult and asked for the public’s input in finding a replacement that could improve property values and the poor image of the downtown area.

“The Pavilion has been one of the central landmarks of Myrtle Beach tourism for more than 50 years, and no one, no one, has a stronger or deeper attachment to it than the people at Burroughs & Chapin,” President Doug Wendel said. “But increasingly, the Pavilion has come to symbolize the past of Myrtle Beach, what Myrtle Beach used to be.”

Board Chairman Egerton Burroughs said the company is holding off on announcements about the future.

“We don’t want to take away from today with [announcing] what will happen when the park closes,” he said.

B&C’s board decided to close the Pavilion while drawing up this year’s budget. They voted two weeks ago to reaffirm that decision.

Wendel said the company must answer to its shareholders, who complained because the park hasn’t been profitable in recent years.

Burroughs’ eyes filled with tears during the announcement.

“It’s a tough day,” he said, the words catching in his throat. “But we will have better days, and change is always good.”

Special events will commemorate the final season, although B&C officials held back details. Wendel said new development at the Pavilion site would commemorate the Pavilion’s place in Myrtle Beach history.

Downtown Redevelopment Corp. Executive Director David Sebok said he wasn’t sure what immediate impact the news would have on downtown businesses and tourism.

“I’m not sure that this announcement will cause hordes of people to come here that haven’t for 20-30 years to visit their nostalgic stomping grounds,” Sebok said. “But certainly some people will.”

The news surprised Myrtle Beach City Council members and the Pavilion’s 38 full-time employees, who were told about the closing shortly before the news conference.

Burroughs said the company would try to find other jobs for those employees.

Council members received a sealed packet from B&C at their morning workshop meeting. An enclosed letter said B&C waited to contact council members until early Thursday to keep the announcement “under wraps until the last possible moment.”

Council members said they were shocked about the closing. Some said they were upset to be kept in the dark.

“Eleventh hour City Council notification is timely, but [too] late,” Councilman Phil Render said. “Mutual respect is the foundation upon which business relationships are built.”

Councilman Mike Chestnut said he felt slighted but hopes the council can help guide the future of the Pavilion site.

Closure of the Pavilion is the best thing for downtown redevelopment, Planning Director Jack Walker said.

“Over the years it has created somewhat of a negative feeling in the winter because of the lack of activity, and it discourages businesses from locating next to it,” Walker said. “We’re looking forward to the future of the site being 12 months of the year, but it needs to be a market that can support it.”

Walker said he envisions housing, retail, entertainment and various other uses that could create a domino effect for other businesses to redevelop property.

“Life after the Pavilion, it’s going to be a different business,” he said.

Several council members lamented the loss of the area’s most memorable landmark, but said they were excited about imminent change for downtown.

“It’s sad. Everybody’s used to seeing things change, but this is such a drastic change,” Councilwoman Susan Grissom Means said. “The repercussions are huge for everybody, but the DRC has long said redevelopment would never really occur in the downtown area until something drastic occurred down there.”

Myrtle Beach is also better suited to lose the Pavilion because of the other offerings, including Broadway at the Beach, Ripley’s Aquarium, shopping and resorts, she said.

Sebok said the alteration of the Pavilion site would be a catalyst for other businesses to redevelop properties downtown.

“They’ve essentially been waiting for B&C to decide what to do with their property, because they are the largest property owner,” Sebok said.

Councilman Chuck Martino said a new development could draw people downtown year round.

“But in the short term, it will create some fear or concern on the part of some small business owners who will be impacted,” Martino said.

For instance, B&C officials couldn’t say Thursday whether the Pavilion site will be redeveloped by summer 2007. Surrounding businesses could be hurt if nothing is in place, so the city could establish events to draw visitors, Sebok said.

“We would likely work collectively to have some sort of special events or special activities that falls in the downtown,” Sebok said. “That way, it’s a transition year, not a lost year.”

– from Myrtle Beach Online (the Sun News)

Pavilion’s closure was overdue
I’m not going to miss Tilt-a-Whirl or the Mad Mouse.

I have no hidden affection for Treasure Hunt and its fake pirates and mini cannons, and no secret desire to have some teenager guess my weight at Fool the Guesser.

Top Spin? Log Flume? Scrambler? Wipeout? Haunted Hotel? Park Place restaurant? I’ll miss them as much as I’m going to miss the green, cracking asphalt of the Myrtle Beach Pavilion Amusement Park.

The Hurricane is impressive, if you like having your stomach force its way into your throat. I don’t.

This is the final season for the 58-year-old Myrtle Beach landmark. I think it’s five seasons too late.

For all the memories I have growing up in a little town called St. Stephen, about 90 minutes from here, and the excitement a trip to Myrtle Beach and “The Pavilion” generated, the closing of the park is part of an inevitable evolution of Myrtle Beach. The advent of endless high rises and an unstoppable oceanfront real estate market has pushed the park well past its prime.

Though it saddens me a bit, it’s the right thing to do.

James Pleasant, a recent transplant from Philadelphia, Pa., doesn’t have the memories I do but has heard of the park’s allure. He’s an acquisition agent for time share company West Gate Resort in the small visitors center facing the Pavilion where park visitors can get deeply discounted tickets if they are willing to sit through a “short” time share presentation.

“That place draws a lot of people,” Pleasant said. “All the people just go there to have fun.”

This is his first time in Myrtle Beach.

“I heard that place makes millions and millions of dollars,” he said.

The Burroughs & Chapin Co. Inc. doesn’t quite see it that way. The park has been barely breaking even and attendance has been flat, much like the overall area’s tourism market. B&C’s Broadway at the Beach likely had something to do with drawing visitors from the park as well.

Still, Pleasant said it’s a bad idea to let such a landmark go.

“You can sell video games, you can sell food, but it is hard to sell fun,” something he’s heard the park does well, he said.

Jodi Woods, a first-time visitor who moved here with Pleasant, echoed his sentiments.

Her kids “thought this was cool because they have all this by the beach,” she said. “My kids can hardly wait to go to it.”

Maybe I’ll see her there this summer when I take my kids to the Pavilion for the first – and last – time.

– from Myrtle Beach Online (the Sun News)

‘So long, old friend’
By Dawn Bryant
The Sun News
Long before Broadway at the Beach or Barefoot Landing, the Myrtle Beach Pavilion Amusement Park – just steps from the beach – is what tourists came to see.

Stephen Gardner, a Greensboro, N.C., native, remembers walking four blocks from the Holman Harbor hotel to the rides. Even the memory of getting sick after too many whirls on the Tilt-a-Whirl is a fond recollection.

“I was going to that Pavilion when I was 4 years old coming here on vacation,” Gardner said. “It was just the highlight of my day when I got to go up to the Pavilion. I’m very saddened by the news. I think I’m not alone in my feeling that it is a historical mainstay of Myrtle Beach.”

Come summer 2007, the heart of Myrtle Beach won’t be the same.

The news came Thursday, when park owner Burroughs & Chapin Co. Inc. announced that this would be the last summer for the Pavilion. The 49 rides, Attic teen nightclub and oceanfront arcade will close for good in September after what will be a highly publicized “Farewell Season.”

What will replace the park hasn’t been decided. B&C also didn’t say what will happen to the rides or whether they might show up at other B&C properties.

“This is something I had hoped wouldn’t happen on my watch,” said Egerton Burroughs, chairman of B&C’s board of directors. Burroughs fought back tears during the news conference. “The Pavilion is a big part of Myrtle Beach. It is like blood running through our veins.”

The Pavilion has been a place where vacationers got soaked on the log flume, screamed as they plunged down the 110-foot drop on the Hurricane Roller Coaster, shared funnel cake and talked trash across an air hockey table.

For some, it was where they got their first job, had their summer fling or had a chance meeting with the person they’d eventually marry.

Harriett Hurt, 61, of Columbia met her future husband on the Pavilion’s dance floor. Though she knew about the possibility of the Pavilion closing, the news shocked her Thursday.

“It won’t look like Myrtle Beach,” said Hurt, who works at the University of South Carolina. “It just won’t have any local character, flavor. I guess I’ll still have the memories and old photos.”

Pavilion fans say Myrtle Beach will never be the same once the park is gone, regardless of what ends up occupying the 11 acres the Pavilion covers. Some fear Myrtle Beach will become more like Miami, with rows of high-rise condos and without the character that has made the town a unique destination.

“We all share the same heartbreak,” said Jack Thompson, a local photographer who worked at the Pavilion in 1951 and lobbied to keep the park from moving. “It is a shame to see that fade for future development with no redeeming family value … You cannot stop progress, but it is a sad commentary to see the Myrtle Beach Pavilion Amusement Park bow to the wrecking ball after what it has meant to the development of Myrtle Beach.”

No doubt the Pavilion’s closure will spark change, said Brad Dean, president of the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce.

“It’s more than just an amusement park. It’s an icon for the Grand Strand tourism industry,” he said. “This is going to force other changes. What they are, we don’t know … This destination will evolve.”

Uncertain future

Many questions remain. What will replace the park? What will Myrtle Beach’s identity as a destination become once its most recognizable symbol – one that has greeted tourists every summer since 1948 – is gone?

What will happen to other downtown businesses without the mainstay anchor?

All of that is still up in the air.

Charleston firm LS3P is working on a plan for the Pavilion property, but it won’t be finished for a couple of months. The goal is to create a mix of lodging, shops and attractions that will lure people downtown year-round, not just during the warm-weather months when the Pavilion operates.

There’s one thing B&C President Doug Wendel is pretty sure of. The arch-topped oceanfront building, where the Pavilion’s magic started more than a half-century ago, won’t survive, though some had speculated a piece of it might.

“It is a concrete bunker,” Wendel said. “It is not very efficiently used. My guess is it will not be there.”

The new development will be done in phases and take several years, according to B&C.

Neighboring business owners wonder what will happen to their livelihoods without the park, which is an anchor for downtown.

“You hate to lose that kind of a landmark,” said Bobby Owens, general manager of the four Ripley’s attractions on Ocean Boulevard, including the Believe It or Not! Museum across the street from the amusement park. “It’s going to be a big hit for the community. You really don’t know what is going to go back in there.”

B&C officials said the Myrtle Beach Downtown Redevelopment Corp., City Council and other downtown property owners need to work together to achieve the goal of year-round activity along Ocean Boulevard.

The redevelopment group asked B&C in 2001 to move the park, four years after pleading with B&C for the park to stay. B&C had announced in 1997 that the Pavilion would move to one of its newer developments, Broadway at the Beach, an outdoor shopping and entertainment complex. City officials feared the impact that move would have on the downtown.

After years of wondering about the park’s future, Chris Walker, who owns several small businesses near the Pavilion, is glad something has been decided.

“I’ve been ready to move forward for six or seven years now,” Walker said. “People are just kind of concerned. You don’t like to see a little change, and this is a huge change.”

A long history

The Pavilion debuted in 1902 as a single-story, wooden dance hall on the oceanfront. That building burned down. The current building and the first rides opened in 1948. Its appeal has been passed through the generations, with parents who visited the park as kids now bringing their own children.

Cheryl Godwin of Charleston, W.Va., is one of those loyal visitors. She’s been vacationing at least once a year in Myrtle Beach for more than three decades, as a teenager years ago and now with her 7-year-old daughter Julianne in tow. “I’m disappointed that she won’t be able to have the same memories of the Pavilion as I do,” Godwin wrote in an e-mail Thursday. “It was something special from my childhood that I was looking forward to sharing with her. … I don’t think my daughter would think that condos and shopping would be a fair replacement.”

B&C has been working with the city’s redevelopment corporation on a Pavilion plan for years, with little progress.

In January 2005, a California developer tapped to come up with a plan, Barry Landreth, resigned under pressure after questions surfaced about his credentials and finances. The project has struggled to get going since Landreth left town.

About 850,000 people visited the Pavilion last year, B&C officials said. The park’s peak was in 1999 when 1.2 million people passed through the gate.

The company has had to subsidize the park’s operation, Wendel said, but he declined to say how much.

One of the worst years was 2000, when B&C fenced in the amusement park and added a $5 entry fee. It didn’t go over well. The fee was gone the next year.

Walker said B&C hasn’t added enough new games or kept up the property, which contributed to the decline.

“They have done nothing to step up and make it profitable,” said Walker, who owns the Nightmare Haunted House, Mad Myrtle’s ice cream shop and an old-time photo place. “To not have it at all is not that big of a leap. They might as well close it.”

Businesses have been bracing for the park’s final season. They just didn’t know it would be this year.

“B&C has got to do what B&C thinks is best for their organization,” said Buz Plyler, owner of the Gay Dolphin Gift Cove, another Boulevard staple. “It is an experiment that may be a bad thing in the long run. …This made Myrtle Beach what it is.”

The park opens for weekends a week from today. Special events to mark the “Farewell Season” are in the works.

“They need to keep it where it’s at,” tourist Nick Anthony of Lincolnton, N.C., said as he stood along Ninth Avenue North beside the park. “That’s part of the history of Myrtle Beach. It ain’t going to be the same.”

– from Myrtle Beach Online (the Sun News)

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