— By BRIAN SMITH
Work is expected to begin this spring on a family-style entertainment complex at the eastern corner of I-20 and Texas Drive in Weatherford.
The 75,000-square-foot facility, called the Weatherford Strand 8 Movie-Bowl-Grille to be constructed by Schulman Partners Ltd. from Bryan, will include an eight-screen movie theatre, a 23-lane bowling alley, a restaurant and arcade, including a laser tag facility and all the latest games, according to Weatherford Economic Development Authority Executive Director Dennis Clayton.
“It will definitely fill a gap that is desperately needed here,” Clayton said. “We’ve become a regional shopping area. This will help us become a regional entertainment area as well.”
Schulman Partners have been in the movie business for more than 85 years, opening their first theater in 1926. The group also owns the City Lights Theatre in Hudson Oaks. Negotiations with Schulman Partners began several months ago. Clayton said the group has constructed a similar facility in Bastrop, southeast of Austin.
Managing partner Mark Schulman said the Parker County area is big enough to support both sets of theatres.
“We believe the Weatherford and Parker County market will support both, as Weatherford will have different features than Hudson Oaks with the in-seat dining and such,” Schulman said.
Schulman said the addition of four new screens in Hudson Oaks and “something special” which he declined to elaborate on, both theatres will be different in style and appearance. He said the location in Weatherford was so “superb” he had to act on it sooner than expected. Clayton said there were five bidders on the land the complex will be built on, which was owned by the Weatherford Independent School District.
Because the facility will be serving alcohol near Austin Elementary School, some rezoning was done, Clayton said, in an effort to protect the children.
Under the new zoning, which was approved in August, any front door of the facility will have to be at least 600 to 900 feet from the property line or the front door of the school. It was originally 300 feet from property line to property line. Under the new zoning, no area that serves alcohol will face the school.
Clayton said the WEDA met with the school district which was shown graphically what was proposed. Clayton said being family friendly and a place families want to come to is what the process and facility is all about.
“We’re going to have meeting rooms that will be designed for the schools and churches to have lock-in style events,”
Clayton said. “We’re hoping schools and youth groups will want to come here and that’s who it’s beng designed for.”
Engineering and architectural work on the project is going on right now. The estimated $12 million to $15 million in construction is expected to begin in April or May and be complete in time for the holiday movie rush, Clayton said.
Traffic on the I-20 service road will not be affected during or after construction, Clayton said, as there will be no entry points to the facility from the service road. Entry and exit will only be from Texas Drive or Washington Street.
The theatre will feature in-seat dining of restaurant-quality food, a first for Parker County, that Clayton says people will enjoy. “It’s definitely a new concept to the area that people will no longer have to go to Fort Worth to have,” Clayton said. “We’re really excited about it.”
Sales and property tax abatements for the first eight years were approved on a graded scale, meaning the abatements will lessen after the first five years, Clayton said. The facility is expected to bring in about $7 million in sales tax once the abatements end.
Approximately 50 to 75 full-time jobs will be a part of the facility.