Waco plans for entertainment expansion

Schulman’s Movie Bowl Grille claims that its new building will be “the largest multilevel family entertainment center in the state.” Photo Courtesy of Schulman’s Movie Bowl Grille

By Matthew Muir | Staff Writer

Waco’s entertainment scene is primed for expansion with numerous businesses confirmed or rumored to come to the city in the near future.

Two entertainment complexes are planned for the area near Central Texas Marketplace – a development between I-35 and New Road developed by NewQuest Properties and a site off of I-35 and Loop 340 developed by MKT Real Estate Holdings, LLC and 58 Aggie Development, LLC.

Plans for the New Road complex include restaurants and retail establishments, as well as larger entertainment venues. Thus far only a Cinemark movie theater is confirmed, but other properties such as Topgolf and a Main Event or Dave & Buster’s-style establishment are a possibility.

Melett Harrison, executive director of economic development for the City of Waco, said that while the developers are pursuing contracts with these businesses, their presence in Waco is not a guarantee.

“I know they are pursuing a relationship with Topgolf and having another tenant,” Harrison said. “Until they’re signed as tenants, and quite frankly until they’re built, we never know exactly what’s going to end up landing there.”

Across I-35 near South Loop 340, the 90,000-square-foot Schulman’s Movie Bowl Grille will anchor a development slated to high-end retail, restaurants and a hotel and conference center. Schulman’s Movie Bowl Grille bills the upcoming Waco location as “the largest multilevel family entertainment center in the state” with a myriad of amenities such as dine-in movie theaters, 30 lanes of bowling, and amusements such as virtual reality and arcade games, ping pong, pool tables and axe throwing. According to the Movie Bowl Grille website, construction of the development is scheduled to begin in August.

According to Harrison, attracting new businesses is an indicator of Waco’s growth. Harrison attributed some of Waco’s newfound appeal to passing a “population threshold” that indicates the city is a potentially viable market.

“Usually there’s a point in time with retail or commercial [businesses], especially chains, that when you hit a certain threshold of population… they automatically start looking at your market,” Harrison said. “They have parameters and metrics that are set out for knowing what size market they need to be in to make their projects work.”

Additionally, Harrison points to Waco’s local attractions and strong tourism economy as another reason Waco is in a position to attract these entertainment venues.

“I just think that Waco is getting on the map of folks who haven’t necessarily looked before,” Harrison said. “Some of that can be [credited] to Baylor and its presence in the Big 12, some of that can be credit to Magnolia and the ‘Fixer Upper effect’ of being popular on TV, some of that can be credited to BSR Cable Park.”

Waco native and Texas Tech student Bobby Barnard described Magnolia as the “fuel for the fire” when talking about Waco’s expansion and hopes Waco’s recent growth will attract even more new businesses to the area.

“[Attracting these new businesses] just makes Waco grow even more,” Barnard said. “I think the Main Event place would be fun…like that whole idea of being able to hang in a place and goof around. [Waco is] pretty good prime real estate.”