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Waco Hippodrome celebrates 100 years, local businesses hopeful for future


After closing two years ago, the Waco Hippodrome plans to open its doors this year on its 100 year anniversary.

"We are really excited about it. We are also really excited about the support we are getting from the community about this," Hippodrome co-owner Shane Turner said.

Turner says he and his brother bought the Hippodrome to preserve the historic Waco landmark. He says he spent a lot of time at the theatre before it closed in 2012, and wants future generations to enjoy it as well.

"We want to start those traditions now with our kids now here in Waco," Turner said. "It will be something new they can tell their kids about."

Turner says the Hippodrome should be ready in the spring or summer of this year. It will show first-run movies and offer a dinner-theatre experience similar to those you see in larger cities like Dallas and Austin.

"This concept is pretty original with being able to do the movie and also still use it as a live venue," Turner said.

A unique feature it will offer is the ability to show two movies at once. The theatre's two levels will be separated by a soundproof wall, so they can show more than two movies at the same time.

Those walls will be removable as well so it will offer the theatre the versatility to hold concerts and live theatre for up to 400 people. His plan is to make this venue a year around destination.

During the renovation, Turner says he wants the building to stay true to its roots, but give it all the modern amenities.

"That was our main goal with it. We wanted to change as little as we had to change. The changes that we made were to make it more functional," Turner said.

Turner says he and his brother have invested $2.5 million into the project. Part of the large expense includes an addition to the right side of the building; a restaurant, that will serve the theatre or downtown's casual visitor.

The restaurant will include more restrooms, an elevator, and an outdoor stage with seating for smaller events. At one time, the theatre can serve anywhere from 1,100 to 1,400 people and provide three different entertainment options.

Local business couldn't be happier that the Hippodrome is coming back, and think it is a good thing not only for them, but also for downtown Waco.

"We are excited about it. We think synergy is a great thing and we think Austin Avenue is on its way up. We think this is just the beginning. So yeah we think everything that is successful down here helps everything else," Muddle co-owner Seth Sutton said.

"The fact that we can get more people exposed to the downtown area and see small businesses like myself and some of the others down here. It is an exciting time for us," Toledo's Hop Shop owner Jeremy Toledo said.

Turner says one of his goals for the Hippodrome was to help revitalize downtown.

"It is really going to benefit them when we have a show and 800 people are walking in and out looking for a place to go," Turner said.

One concern people have is the lack of parking downtown, but businesses say a limited number of curbside spots forces people to walk around downtown and explore everything it has to offer.

"You know downtown is about connecting with other people. It is not about going into an environment where you are in your own little world and driving in your car. It is about getting out, connecting and being a part of a community," Waco Chamber urban development director Chris McGowan said.

"There really is a lot more parking down here than people think. It is not a big of a deal to park a block away and actually walk around downtown," Toledo said.

With the Hippodrome opening soon, and the construction of the new McLane Stadium close by, business owners are optimistic downtown will be a destination spot.

"That signals the end of Waco being the little step brother to Dallas and Austin. I think the possibilities are endless," Sutton said.

"That is what we are here to do, to make downtown a destination for everybody. This is everybody's neighborhood and we want people to have the opportunity to take advantage of that," McGowan said.

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