By Brooke Hill | Staff Writer
If you love live concerts and eating snacks while watching movies, you’re in luck.
Local entrepreneurs Shane and Cody Turner received approval from the downtown Tax Increment Financing Zone board for $226,112 toward a $3 million expansion of the historic Waco Hippodrome.
The expansion will add three theaters, a new dining space and a rooftop patio.
The TIF board oversees a taxing district that collects a portion of property taxes in downtown and reinvests them as public improvements and business incentives. The board’s recommendations must be approved by the Waco City Council.
“We are very happy with the support that we have seen from our community the last few years after reopening The Waco Hippodrome,” Shane Turner said.
Community support, he said, is something the Hippodrome is placing their bets on as the venue expands.
“One of the main reasons we have decided to move forward with this expansion is because we feel like the community is committed to helping the Hippodrome and downtown be a success. Since reopening, we’ve had time to identify most of the obstacles presented by this 103-year-old building, and we will be addressing them in the expansion. We are extremely excited to have the three additional screens. This is going to free up our main orchestra theater for so many more events, like live music, live theatre, large banquets, comedy shows [and] children’s shows.”
The Hippodrome’s expansion comes realizing what movie contracts meant. When the Hippodrome first started showing new movies, they were unaware that the contracts would require them to be open seven days a week in order to show them, said Casey Turner, owner and operator of The Hippodrome. Additionally, the third-floor kitchen is too small to serve the restaurant and the dine-in moviegoers, so a larger kitchen is being built on the ground floor which will serve a new ground-floor dining area.
“While we like doing the movies and we’ve discovered that that’s been lucrative and successful, we really want to do the live events as well, because that’s what the Hippodrome was originally built for and intended for,” Casey Turner said. “We are expanding so that we can offer more comfortable seating, better sound and still do live events as often as we’d like because right now we don’t do as many as we’d like to do.”
One of the main things Casey Turner said she is looking forward to an increase in scheduling Hippodrome events and shows.
“I want to see as many things that we can get programmed in. Fun shows, shows that you don’t have to travel to Dallas or Austin for, that you can just kind of have here in town,” Turner said. “I just would like to see the public really enjoying what the Hippodrome has to offer.”
Turner pointed out that other concert venues such as Common Grounds or The Backyard are great places with great programming, but one thing that sets The Hippodrome apart is that it is an indoor venue.
“It really creates an atmosphere that you can go no matter what, so when you purchase your ticket you’re safe,” Turner said. “If you purchase your ticket normally at any other place, and it’s rained out, there’s nothing you can really do about that. Obviously, the grandeur of being in a 100-year-old theater. It’s just a unique experience since it’s in such an old, beautiful building.”
Construction is already underway and is estimated to be completed by March 2018.