The former Carolina Amphitheater in Marion is reopening this week under a name that better reflects the history of the area, according to organizers, and just in time for the fall bike rally that draws thousands of Harley-Davidson motorcycles to the Grand Strand.
The Swamp Fox Entertainment Complex, named for American Revolutionary War officer and South Carolinian Francis Marion better known as the “Swamp Fox,” is providing tent and RV camping and a live entertainment venue.
Located just off U.S. 501 about an hour’s drive north of Myrtle Beach, the 250-acre entertainment complex was purchased in late January by Delaware corporation HDMG Entertainment, LLC. Company executive chairman Bob Hartmann of Connecticut said the company has spent $3 million renovating the complex so far, and more investment is in the works.
Knowing what’s been happening in Myrtle Beach, making it very difficult for the bike rallies, we wondered why not do it out here. So we kind of chased it.”
Bob Hartmann with Swamp Fox Entertainment Complex
While the stage and seating have been updated for the fall rally that starts this weekend and runs through Oct. 4, Hartmann shared his vision to eventually develop the complex into a Deadwood, South Dakota, look-alike. That venue attracts thousands of bikers as part of the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally every August.
Describing himself as an “avid motorcyclist,” Hartmann said he passed the closed complex every year on his way to the beach for bike week and wondered why no one opened it.
“Knowing what’s been happening in Myrtle Beach, making it very difficult for the bike rallies, we wondered why not do it out here. So we kind of chased it,” Hartmann said.
Novelty stores, three museums and a hotel are a part of the long-range plans as well as an RV park moving into 2017
The initial plan called for a May opening to coincide with the spring bike rally. But Hartmann said that was postponed due to delays in the installation of the fiber optics network. Hartmann estimated a loss in anticipated revenue of some $5.6 million due to the delay.
While he is over that hurdle, his next one is to ensure he gets his liquor license by Thursday’s opening of Swamp Fox Biker Bash 2015.
Calling the venue the “world’s largest between Miami and New York,” Hartmann said development would occur in stages based on the support of the community. He estimates the venue could create some 2,000 jobs and $4.5 million in new tax dollars for Marion County.
Included in the plans is a 1,000 linear foot, two-sided bar with two kitchens that Hartmann said would break the Guinness Book of World Records for the “world’s longest bar.” That phase of the project should be completed by spring, he said.
$4.5 million in new tax dollars for Marion County Expected from planned development at the Swamp Fox Entertainment Complex
Novelty stores, three museums and a hotel are a part of the long-range plans as well as an RV park moving into 2017. The museums will honor the American Indian, the history of bike week and pirates.
Those going to Swamp Fox Biker Bash 2015 will get in free, but there is a charge for campers and parking. There will be live mermaids in a pond and a pirate group out of Charleston that will provide entertainment. Hartmann said there would be a host of food vendors and several live bands.
“We’ll provide great camping, great rides and you can party like a rock star and be safe,” he said.
Hartmann said the venue is not all about bikers, other musical events will include everything from gospel to country. On the schedule already is a Southern Rock Festival Oct. 23-24 and a June 2016 Pirate Festival.
Angela Nicholas can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.