Development booms in world-class vacation destination
Travelers Discover Diverse Entertainment Experience in Branson, Missouri
Not since the boom years of the mid-1990s has this town of approximately 6,500 seen the kind of record-setting new development and expansion of entertainment and vacation amenities that are taking place in 2005. This year, the city is anticipating $125 million in new theaters, attractions, golf courses, shopping centers, restaurants, hotels, resorts and residential and vacation housing. The previous record of $119 million was set in 1993. A Top 20 vacation destination, Branson attracts an estimated 7.2 million visitors to southwest Missouri each year.
Branson/Lakes Area Chamber of Commerce and Convention & Visitors Bureau President and CEO Ross Summers said new visitors will be surprised at what the town has to offer, and those familiar with Branson will find even more ways to have fun than ever before in 2005.
"What has made Branson such a popular vacation destination has also made it attractive to new and expanding businesses," he said. "Our unique combination of world-class entertainment in close proximity to outdoor and lake recreation, along with our famous Ozark Mountain hospitality is what sets Branson apart from other major destinations."
More than 100 live shows at 49 state-of-the-art theaters star music legends such as Mickey Gilley, the Oak Ridge Boys, and the Lennon Sisters. Production shows such as Broadway and Legends in Concert; comedy shows by Jim Stafford, and famous Russian comedian Yakov Smirnoff; big-budget magic shows such as Brett Daniels, and Siegfried and Roy Presents Darren Romeo: The Voice of Magic; and family shows such as the Presleys, Baldknobbers, Duttons and Haygoods present a diverse range of entertainment for people of all ages. Shows such as Neil Goldberg's sight and sound fantasy, Cirque; Dolly Parton's Dixie Stampede Dinner and Show; and the Acrobats of China engage audiences with non-stop action and mystifying physical feats.
Branson also has Silver Dollar City, an international award-winning theme park; Chateau On The Lake, Missouri's only AAA four diamond lake-side resort and conference center; 10 championship golf courses; three pristine lakes; 100,000 acres of nearby parks and wilderness areas; the nation's largest annual Veterans Homecoming event each November; and the benefit of $40 million of new and improved roads since 1990.
Branson Businesses Expand
Among the new attractions visitors will find in 2005 are Silver Dollar City's $10 million explosive launch roller coaster called Powder Keg. The ride, which blasts riders from 0 to 53 miles per hour in just 2.8 seconds, is one of only three like it in the world, according to Brad Thomas, general manager for the 1880's theme park, owned by Herschend Family Entertainment (HFE), owner of White Water, Showboat Branson Belle, and Ride the Ducks, all popular family attractions in the Branson area.
The $40 million Celebration City amusement park, also owned by HFE, will unveil the new $2 million NightFire! spectacular in April featuring a five-story mountainside video projection, fire cannons with 150-foot flames, three-dimensional visuals, laser lights, water effects, and pyrotechnics.
Springfield, Missouri-based development company John Q. Hammons Hotels, Inc., owner of the four-diamond Chateau on the Lake, has added Spa Botanica, a $2 million, 10,000 square foot addition. Last year, the company announced its intention to build an 18-story five-star hotel adjacent to the Chateau in 2007.
World-famous magician David Copperfield will perform a limited engagement at the Andy Williams Moon River Theatre June 13-26, and legendary pop star Petula Clark will join Williams in the spring and fall.
Ed Ames of the chart-topping Ames Brothers, and actress Carol Lawrence will appear at the MGH Performing Arts Center in Don Gregory's The Great American Songbook show beginning in June. Patti Page and Carol Channing will guest star in The Branson Follies, also new at MGH, beginning this fall.
In keeping with the spirit of Branson's reputation for exceptional customer service, the Presley family, owners of Presleys' Country Jubilee, the first theater on Hwy. 76, which opened in 1967, now has new leather seats, as does the Jim Stafford Theatre. Stafford also recently remodeled his theater's lobby and upgraded the sound and lighting systems. The Dutton Family Theatre and the Dutton Inn have also undergone major renovations.
Other new developments planned for 2005 include a 100,000 square-foot Boyds Bear Country teddy bear store; "Titanic: The Legend Continues" attraction featuring more than 400 original artifacts from the fateful ship; the Belair Theatre starring Bill Medley of The Righteous Brothers and Paul Revere and the Raiders; a 32,000-square foot 1957 vintage car exhibit; the $50 million Branson Mill Craft Village; and an Arnold Palmer-designed signature practice facility at Top of the Rock Golf Course overlooking Table Rock Lake.
Major new developments such as Sight and Sound Theatre, a $25 million Christian-themed theater and property development; Branson Ridge Winery; and Branson Hills Plaza shopping center featuring Target and Home Depot are anticipated to open over the next few years.
Branson Creek Golf Course, which ranks #66 on Golf Digest's list of Top 100 courses in America, and another development company are planning 68 golf villas, 70-acres of vacation homes and condos, a club house, and a lodge, all within a few miles of downtown Branson, and just minutes from Table Rock Lake.
Visitors Put Down Roots
Beginning this month, the Chamber will launch a brand advertising campaign featuring a newly designed website, and TV commercials to show visitors like Dan Reardon the tremendous variety waiting for them.
Reardon, an engineer from St. Louis, and his family, recently came to Branson for the first time as participants in a marketing research study for the area.
"I had no idea Branson was so sophisticated and had so much to offer. The area is a growing metropolis. My wife and I are even considering buying property in the area," Reardon said.
Mike Rankin, director of economic development for the City of Branson, said business interest in Branson is overwhelming. "Our phone is ringing off the hook with people who want information on Branson. Many of our inquiries come from visitors who are so impressed with the area, they have decided to put down permanent roots."
Convention Center Attracts Business Travelers
Branson's single largest new development currently under construction is Branson Landing, a $400 million multi-phase retail shopping, dining, luxury lodging, condominium and convention center facility situated along 95 acres of Lake Taneycomo shoreline in historic downtown Branson. The 220,000-square foot convention center will provide 56,000-square feet of exhibition space, 20,000-square feet of banquet space, and 15,000-square feet of meeting space.
The opening of the first major phase of Branson Landing is set for spring of 2006, and will include several major retailers such as Bass Pro Shops and Belk Department Store.
Since the dawn of the 20th Century, the Branson/Lakes Area has been attracting visitors, lured by natural beauty and outdoor recreational activities. The addition of Silver Dollar City and Shepherd of the Hills Homestead in the early 1960s formally established the area as a vacation destination.
Branson's 45-year-old live entertainment scene had been enjoyed by millions of visitors even before it was "discovered" by the CBS television program 60 Minutes in 1991. Following the release of the feature story, which proclaimed Branson, "the live country music show capital of the entire universe," many nationally-known celebrities built multi-million dollar theaters, and together with other property developers, launched the area into a period of previously unmatched record growth in new construction, and sparked the interest of millions of new visitors to the small Ozarks town. Many of them still visit on a regular basis, according to the Chamber's research, which shows that 80% of Branson's visitors in 2004 were repeat customers.
"Branson has undergone tremendous growth in the past 45 years and will continue to see record-breaking expansion for several years to come, but through it all, Branson remains the kind of place where visitors feel at home among family and friends, and that's what truly makes Branson phenomenal," said Summers.