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Iron Man, other Avengers find home in Myrtle Beach

By Dawn Bryant
dbryant@thesunnews.com

MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. - Believe it or not, Iron Man and some of his superhero buddies have found a new home along Ocean Boulevard.

An 8 foot 2 inch tall Iron Man, along with Captain America and his motorcycle and Thor, are the signature pieces in an overhauled Ripley’s Believe It or Not Odditorium, which has been a staple along Ocean Boulevard since the 1970s and this week is finishing up its first major interior renovation since the mid-1980s.

The superhero items are fresh off the production floor and have never been displayed, debuting this week in Myrtle Beach. They are among a flurry of new offerings along Ocean Boulevard this summer.

“All the superheroes are so popular,” said Chris Butler, Ripley’s marketing and sales director in Myrtle Beach. “No other Ripley’s has had this. This is brand new...We have such a large family market, they thought it would be a good fit for us.”

The “Tech Depot” display features the large superhero figures as well as an ash sketch of Tony Stark and other tidbits from one of the hottest movie franchises. Crews were still assembling the display Monday, but some customers strolling through the maze of Believe It or Not rooms already were impressed.

The display debuts as “Iron Man 3” remains one of the most popular movies in the country since its release three weeks ago, with another installment in the “Thor” series expected in theaters later this year.

The new superhero section of the odditorium replaces the longtime “graveyard” exhibit that took guests on a dark look at torture, sacrifices during the 1700s and 1800s.

“It didn’t play well with children,” Butler said.

The superhero room is the signature part of a $250,000 interior overhaul of Ripley’s oldest attraction in Myrtle Beach. Other new items mixed in the 10 display rooms include an Optimus Prime transformer made of car parts, massive image of John Lennon made from pennies, a map of license plates that spell out the words to the “Star Spangled Banner,” an animatronics version of the world’s tallest man (an odditorium staple) and a “recollections” room with a digital screen that mimics a person’s movements in a psychedelic display.

“I could stand here for hours,” tourist Ashley-Marie Hudgins said as she twirled her arms watching the reflection and snapping a few photos of it. “This is like the funnest place to come. I’m definitely coming back when the superhero room opens.”

The Ripley’s upgrades are among a flurry of new offerings along the tourist heavy Ocean Boulevard this summer. I Love Sugar, a store dedicated to everything sweet, is putting the finishing touches on its new building near Mr. Joe White Avenue with a grand opening set for June 1. On the oceanfront in the former spot of the historic Chesterfield Inn, Shark Attack miniature golf opened earlier this year and the Hammerhead Grill next door plans to open at the end of May or early June.

Farther south, Family Kingdom Amusement Park added four new rides including a Wild Mouse-style steel roller coaster, its first major addition since 2004. There also are a couple of new bars and eateries along the boardwalk.

Downtown leaders have said it’s crucial to regularly add new offerings along Ocean Boulevard to give the large number of repeat tourists something new to see and do.

The 1.2-mile boardwalk, which opened in 2010, sparked some of the renovations and brought new life to the area as it tried to recover from the loss of The Myrtle Beach Pavilion Amusement Park, which closed and was torn down after the 2006 summer season.

The boardwalk, renovations at some businesses and new attractions that have moved in the area sparked Ripley’s to invest in the odditorium upgrades, Butler said. Ripley’s has a large presence along the Boulevard that includes the odditorium, a Haunted House, a Mirror Maze and a Moving Theater. It also owns Ripley’s Aquarium at Broadway at the Beach, which plans to expand in the near future.

The overhauled odditorium, which was closed for four days during the heaviest work but has reopened, will be done by the end of the week, if not earlier. The adult ticket price went up $1 to $14.99, while a kid’s ticket for ages 3 to 11 is $9.99. The odditorium opens at 10 a.m. every day.

“This time is the right time to upgrade,” Butler said. “People are really starting to say, ‘Hey, let’s go down to the boardwalk.’ It’s starting to turn back into a destination itself.”

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