By Rae Jefferson
The Waco Hippodrome officials announced the theater’s grand opening at a press conference at The Creative Arts Studio and Theatre around noon Friday.
Melissa Green, the theater’s programming director, said the Waco Hippodrome Grand Opening Celebration will take place over six days from Nov. 14 to Nov. 19 and will feature events that cater to diverse audiences. Tickets for the grand opening will be available Monday and can be purchased from the box office at 254 296-9000.
“Since my arrival in May, I have been asked numerous times daily, ‘When is the Hippodrome going to open?’” Green said.
The nearly week-long event will give guests a sample of the different types of entertainment the theater will provide, Green said.
Programs will include a variety show, musical performances from various artists, children’s theater productions, movie screenings and an outdoor celebration including local food trucks. Some events are free. Descriptions of the week’s events can be found @WacoHippodrome on Twitter.
Green said the theater’s bar and restaurant will not go into regular operation hours, 11 a.m. to 11 p.m., until Nov. 16 because of other catering methods that will be used during the first two days of the grand opening. Bar services and some concessions will be available on Nov. 15.
The theater will also have several soft openings before Nov. 14, although the theater is not ready to release the dates for those events at this time, Green said.
Cody Turner, one of the theater’s owners, said it is nice to see the Hippodrome coming together after investing three years in the project.
“It’s been a long time coming,” Turner said. “We’re ready to get rolling on this.”
Despite the time he and his partners have put into the Hippodrome, Turner said they have always been confident in the idea of reviving the theater, and the patience use with developing the project ultimately paid off.
“There was a lot going in to it, so we didn’t want to rush it,” Turner said. “We’ve changed a lot of things from our original idea, and we feel like they were for the best.”
Green said although the theater is still seeking sponsorship for individual events throughout the year, the First National Bank McGregor agreed to sponsor the theater for its opening week.
“They’ve been such a great support to us,” Green said.
Kevin Dobbs, senior vice president of the bank, said after doing business with Turner and his family for about eight years, he knew joining in on the Hippodrome would not be a mistake.
“We’ve done multiple projects with the Turner brothers in downtown Waco,” Dobbs said. “When this projects became available and they were the guys to come and take it over – it was something we believed in.”
Dobbs said being part of the Hippodrome’s renovation is especially exciting to him as a native Wacoan.
“I got to experience it when I was younger, so now that someone finally has the ability to come in – that’s huge,” Dobbs said. “It’s exciting to be a part of that, and it’s great for First National Bank to be a part of that.”
The Hippodrome will start its regular schedule on Nov. 20, Green said.
Mocking Jay, the third of four films in the Hunger Games series, will be the first regular-release film the theater will screen. Green said the Hippodrome is currently working to organize a marathon of all the movies in the Hunger Games franchise in time for the newest film.
“You can get your whole Hunger Games fix in one fell swoop,” Green said jokingly.
Green said the theater will also make an effort to screen films from independent studios.
“It all depends on their availability and willingness to work with us,” Green said. “We are going to try and offer a variety of diverse programming.”
The Hippodrome may be the site of Baylor Film and Digital Media’s Black Glasses Film Festival in the future, Green said.
“That’s still in the works,” Green said. “They want to have it at the Hippodrome. We want to have them at the Hippodrome, so hopefully we’ll be able to host that event next year.”