Bigfoot Drop Tower Attraction is Now Vertical

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The long-awaited drop tower attraction on the 76 strip is showing much more visible signs of progress these days as the tower itself is now vertical and growing towards the sky. The attraction is called Bigfoot on the Strip and will include a 200 foot tall drop tower ride similar to the typical theme park attraction, a slingshot contraption that sends two riders over 200ft in the air, a glass elevator, and indoor play such as an arcade and a large themed play gym. The $10 million development was originally announced for last year, but construction did not get underway until last August. It looks like it will easily be ready in time for this summer vacation season.

The most recent details of the actual plans for the attraction are in this news article.

 

Forum member sanddunerider has shared with us these great photos of the progress:

Branson Mountain Coaster Is Now Open

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The long awaited “mountain coaster” at the new Branson Mountain Adventure Park is now at least partially open for guests. The grand opening ceremony is set for August 12, but today the park announced on its facebook page that it is ready to start “soft opening” daily starting at noon tomorrow. Soft openings are actually common in the coaster world due to the need to train staff with a limited crowd of riders before the masses converge on it.

The new coaster has been dubbed “The Runaway” and includes nearly 5,000 feet of total track with over 3,000 of that being actual coasting descent. Unlike most roller coasters riders are actually able to leverage some control over their car by applying a brake if desired. The maximum speed is only 30 mph, but with the tiny open-air tandem-seating carts hurtling through the trees that speed will feel absolutely out of control.

The posted prices are $15 for the main “driver”, $10 for a second tandem seated rider, and then $10 for all re-rides on the same day. Tax not included. You can find the coaster by taking highway 165 south out of the main drag of Branson past Doc’s Hickory Roadhouse. The Adventure Park is next to Skyline Baptist Church.

Get more information here on the official site.

Branson Zip-Line Roundup

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Zip-line attractions are the current hottest fad in the Branson entertainment market. There are at least five major installations around the city currently, with two more coming this summer. Here’s a quick survey of the zip-line landscape as it stands for 2016:

Adventure Ziplines of Branson

Adventure Ziplines is located behind the Tanger Outlet, next to the White House theatre. This is one of the most extensive zip line courses in Branson, with 7 ziplines total ranging from lengths of 200 to 2,000 feet. The fastest line can get up to 50 mph! The journey also includes traversing several rope bridges at high altitudes. Adventure Zipline tours take approximately two hours. As of this posting, an individual tour seemed to cost $79.99 a person, though group rates and variable pricing may apply.

http://www.adventureziplinesofbranson.com/

Parakeet Pete’s Waterfront Zipline at Branson Landing

Less a zipline and more of a zipline-inspired ride, this attraction is made up of two side by side lines to which two-seater open-air cars are attached. They call this a “power zipline” for a reason – instead of the traditional gravity powered descent you are wisked away at relatively high speeds backwards across Lake Tanycomo and then forwards again back to the loading platform. Checkout this POV video of the experience. Tickets are approximately $29 online (with tax included), but a combo pass is available that gives you unlimited rides on both the zipline and the hot air balloon ride for about $40 online or $50 in person.

http://www.parakeetpetes.com/

Zipline USA

Zipline USA seems to be the most adventurous and extensive zipline course in the area. The company is located near Reeds Springs, but I’m unsure where they actually take you for the course. Wherever it is seems to be way out in the woods, because the photos of this course are the most “outdoorsy” I’ve seen for ziplines in Branson. They rightly brand themselves as a “zipline canopy tour” and tout their dedication at integrating the course with the surrounding fauna. The course was also carefully designed to eliminate the need for climbing towers. Only 8 stairs are necessary to start the journey, although there is purportedly some hiking involved at parts based on user reviews. This course includes 9 ziplines and costs $89 per person.

http://www.goziplineusa.com/

Inspiration Tower’s Vigilante Zipline

The most extreme zipline in Branson is at the famous Inspiration Tower. Vigilante involves dropping over 370 feet over a distance of 2370 feet and reaching speeds of over 50 mph. Not to mention that this originates from the top of the huge Inspiration Tower, which all Branson visitors know can be seen for miles. Vigilante only costs $29 per person, and includes a trip up Inspiration Tower itself, which is a worthwhile experience alone. While you’re there, don’t forget to stop by Shepard of the Hills proper and see the historic homestead that inspired one of the most famous books in the world.

http://theshepherdofthehills.com/vigilante-extreme-ziprider/

Branson Zipline and Canopy Tour

One of the first attractions to nail down the zipline craze in Branson, the Branson Zipline and Canopy Tour offers a variety of zipline offerings ranging from 1 to 7 ziplines per tour. There is a tour designed for families in mind, one for scenic views, a high-thrill zip line, and one that just seems to include everything. Prices range from $45-$100 with various age and group discounts available.

http://www.bransonzipline.com/tours.cfm

 

Coming Soon:

Branson Mountain Adventure

Branson Mountain Adventure is best known for the mountain coaster attraction currently under construction, but the ultimate plans for the site include a zip coaster (essentially a powered zipline with curves), zip lines, and many other amenities to create an adventure-based resort experience. Since they are focusing on the mountain coaster currently, it seems like it could be next year at earliest before the ziplines are added into the mix.

http://bransonalpinemountaincoaster.com/

Branson Harbor Building Demolished For New Development

The old Branson Harbor retail building and visitor’s center near the turn off from Highway 65 onto the 76 strip has been demolished to make way for a new retail development. No renderings of the new development have been released, and it sounds like the design may not have been finalized yet, but plans currently seem to call for a two story retail structure with a visitors center similar to the old structure. A national tenant is apparently interested in the site, but has not been signed or named yet. You can watch the building be demolished and get a few more details from the developers at this link.

 

While the Branson Harbor building had indeed fallen into disrepair, one has to wonder if Branson is about to lose another semi-unique structure in favor of yet another cookie cutter suburban strip development. While it was never a great example of urban development, it’s exterior at least exuded the timeless Ozarkan decor that visitors had come to expect and desire from Branson. On the other hand, just look at the building next to it:

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This location is probably among the top ten development sites in Branson that could really make or brake the recent efforts to revitalize the 76 strip. Sitting right at the turnoff from highway 65, this is a plot that almost all visitors to Branson are going to end up going past at some point; usually as the first thing they see entering the strip. Adding another cheap shell building with a generic national brand would make this turnoff just like any other in Missouri instead of the gateway into the Midwest’s fun capitol. Let’s hope the developers really think outside the box and at least do something interesting architecturally, no matter what the tenants are.

New Pasghetti’s Exterior Reveals Branson’s Continued Low Standards

When the new Pasghetti’s Italian restaurant was announced last year, most Branson observers were delighted at not only the prospect of a great new Italian restaurant, but also the engaging and interesting exterior as shown in the initial renderings:

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Eccentric decor  has typically been welcomed and encouraged in Branson. Much of the town is decidedly a tourist trap, and most visitors enjoy the departure from typical generic suburbanism. Hollywood Wax Museum’s Branson location re-built it’s exterior a few years ago into a massive facade of a New York skyline complete with a giant King Kong replica that is always fun to drive past.

However the final end result of Pasghetti’s exterior leaves much to be desired. Nearly all the details promised by the early artwork have been dropped, leaving a brick box with sparse detail accentuated only by the signature giant meatball and a small tomato oddly positioned on the top corner. That would have been bad enough, but to add insult to injury the meatball is comically bad looking, even by Branson’s usual tacky standards. You can see a few photos of the end product in this review.

Pasghetti’s is a great restaurant, and the interior seems to be nicely finished and detailed, so the poor result of the exterior is somewhat mind-boggling. What drove the changes from the initial concept pitch? Why is this end result deemed acceptable? Branson has plenty of eye-sores, so it is easy to understand that adopting any kind of standards is an uphill battle, but this fresh disappointment should be turning some heads and rekindling the conversation on what kind of standards we should hold new developments in Branson to.

Branson is currently in the initial stages of a massive new project to rebuild the 76 strip, dubbed “The Spirit of 76″. The project aims to help transform the 76 strip from endless parking lots and strip retail into a walkable and entertaining destination that new generations of guests will be attracted to. This project was supposed to be a highlight of the new 76, but instead it simply shows that rebuilding the road won’t be enough to keep Branson attractive to future generations. A degree of oversight is sorely needed in Branson to hold developers accountable and stop the decades-long trashing of Branson’s potential.

It wouldn’t take much to make Pasghetti’s exterior into the exciting and intriguing destination point it was intended to be. The facade is an unworthy reflection of the great restaurant inside. Let’s hope a renovation is in the works, but until then we certainly encourage checking out the interior and their great food and wine line-up.

Spirit of 76 Project Provides a Way Forward for Branson

For the past several years, Branson has been working on a plan to re-imagine highway 76, the main strip through Branson. The plan, dubbed “Spirit of 76″, is a conceptual plan to expand highway 76′s walkability, desirability, and ability to handle a mass transportation system. The plan includes huge walkways on both sides of the road with intriguing sculptures and landscaping, and a new flex lane down the center of the road that will be able to accommodate a new trolly system. The plan was formally adopted by the city back in August as should be working its way towards engineering and construction now. The last we heard about the project, the city had approved a $5.2 million contract amendment with the engineering firm as they continue to work on various design details and right-of-way negotiations. You can view the conceptual plan here.

 

We have briefly mentioned this project on our forums in the past, but with the recent discussion of Silver Dollar City’s and Branson’s performance in 2014 the project seems all the more pertinent. The focus on walkwability follows the recent trend to promote entertainment districts within cities by making them into spaces where people park their cars and then walk around all evening from location to location within the district. However, one wonders how fitting this will be in Branson, where many visitors and part-time residents are of retirement age and the temperatures swing to extremes on both ends during the year. Again, Branson is faced with a question of whether to cater to a new generation of younger visitors or cater to their old base which is now largely composed of retiree’s.

The other stand-out piece of the plan involves converting the center lane into a “flex lane” that will more easily accommodate a proposed trolly system. We have been begging for a trolley system for decades now, and the one in Branson’s twin city, Pigeon Forge, TN, seems to do well. However, with all the right turns one needs to make to get into various locations on the strip, it’s not immediately clear how that will work. It sounds like there will be far fewer curb cuts and entry points into locations off the strip, as parking lots become more centralized and shared between various locations. This will make the strip much more stream lined, but all those cars funneling into fewer ports will require some majorly re-configured spaces around the strip. The conceptual plan doesn’t detail any new specific new parking lots or parking garages, but it seems like a few new garages would be called for with this plan.

All in all, the conceptual plan seems like a good line of thought for the city, but it will be interesting to see how the actual plan will come to fruition. With the myriad of tangled properties surrounding the strip, it will be incredibly tough to both integrate all the parking  lots and build the walkway as presented all the way down both sides of the strip. If they can at least get the trolly system in place and have a few places to park and ride, it will still be a huge step forward.

 

 

Silver Dollar City Meets Attendance Expectations for 2014

In a rare move, Silver Dollar City released the attendance total for 2014 in a recent article (see here). At 1.9 million visitors in 2014, SDC PR Director Lisa Rau says they met their goal for the year. The park struggled some during the year due to poor weather on the weekends, but a strong Christmas season rocketed their attendance figures back up.

Branson also did well in 2014, getting its highest retail sales tax revenue in its recorded history (a 3 percent increase from 2013). Tax receipts were also up from 2013 in every major category: amusements, theaters, hotel and motel, campgrounds, overnight rental, and food.

While those numbers are somewhat encouraging, it does raise some questions for fans concerning SDC and Branson’s slow growth. SDC has seemingly had roughly flat attendance projections over the past decade while it’s sister park Dollywood in Tennessee is growing exponentially. Branson is slowly gaining steam coming off the Great Recession and the recent tornado, but the town continues to struggle with more of the same issues that have plagued large-scale growth for decades. There are plenty of bright spots scattered here and there, but with other attractions within the region catching up to Branson and Silver Dollar City, we’re watching and waiting for some big movements to be adopted to get Branson and Silver Dollar City back into strong growth projections.

Join the discussion here on our forums.

 

Old Reeds Spring Church In Jeopordy

A 107 year old church building in Reeds Spring has an uncertain future. The church housed a Presbyterian congregation from 1907 until around 1993 when the church district gave up the church and left it to the city. It is the oldest structure in Reeds Spring, and a classic landmark for those who travel through the city to reach Branson and other local destinations.

Severe storms over the summer have left heavy damage to the roof, adding to a long list of other needed repairs from years of neglect and dilapidation. As historic as it may be, the tiny town of Reeds Spring has a very limited budget and doesn’t seem keen on spending what little they have on the church. At a recent “vision meeting” held to seek out options for the structure, none of the local residents even showed up.

The recent vision meeting did outline a few options for the city to explore, such as developing the structure into a wedding chapel, but with little community involvement and a likely high price tag nothing is certain yet. The city will make a final decision in about nine weeks. Until then, there is one more planning meeting that is open to the public on November 5 at 7pm in the church.

Get more details and see some photos of the church here in this official news story.

 

What’s Next for the Grand Palace?

Earlier this month it was announced that Branson’s largest theatre, the Grand Palace, was sold to Kuvera Partners for $2.7 million. The Grand Palace, located in the heart of Branson’s highway 76 entertainment strip, has been shuttered since 2008 and has become seriously dilapidated. The theatre’s previous owner defaulted on a loan, leading to the theatre falling into the hands of Topeka-based Columbian Bank & Trust, which then defaulted in 2008. That left the theatre in the hands of the FDIC, who have been attempting to sell the property ever since.

 

Kuvera Partners is an LA-based investment firm that specializes in attractions, self-storage, and real estate.The company already owns the successful Hollywood Wax Museum in Branson, which includes a variety of attractions within its complex. The company’s existing portfolio of attractions and solid financial position lead to exciting speculation over what their future plans could be for the property, whether that be revitalizing the theatre or knocking it down for something new. The company has stated that they have no immediate plans yet, as they are still researching the market.

 

So what are Kuvera’s most likely options here? Obviously re-opening the theatre is at the top of the list. With a 4,000-seat capacity, The Grand Palace is in an odd place where it’s too small for the big nationally-recognized artists that tour through the country, but too large for the normal Branson shows. In the past, the theatre has hosted a few big events that included everything from famous musicians to a Miss America pageant, but finding regular events of that caliber to fill the theatre could prove difficult. If Kuvera were to re-open the theatre, they would have to meet the challenge of finding and marketing acts that are just the right size for the theatre.

 

The real estate that the shuttered theatre sits on is extremely valuable due to its location square in the middle of Branson’s entertainment strip. Should Kuvera decide to get rid of the theatre, the possibilities for new developments are bountiful. With Kuvera’s specialization in attractions, one could imagine them developing something along the lines of a museum, aquarium, or even a thrill ride complex. Another option is that he popularity of the Grand Village shopping area next door could lead them to develop a similar urban shopping outlet. There’s also the less exciting  possibility that they could end up taking the easy way out by parceling the property for development into more restaurants, shops, and hotels.

 

One thing I found truly remarkable about this development is the influence that the Spirit of 76 project has had on it. Kuvera makes it clear that the revitalization of highway 76 has made the prospect of redeveloping the Grand Palace site much more attractive. Clearly this type of investment will yield huge rewards for Branson, and there’s room for a lot more of it.

 

Check out Kuvera’s press release about this property here.

Any ideas on what will come next? Join the discussion here on our forums.

Downtown Branson Revitalization Project Begins Soon

Branson’s historic downtown will soon be revitalized with a series of new improvements including new sidewalks, lamps, benches, and other amenities that will make the area more attractive for shopping and tourism. This project is the product of over a year and half’s worth of public input, meeting, and planning committee meetings with goals that include increasing the area’s economic viability while also embracing downtown’s history and charm. The project has a website dedicated to it which can be viewed here, and a recent news article detailing some of the interesting aspects about the project can be read here.

On our forums we’ve been discussing the need for Branson to reform itself to be more than strip malls and scattered theaters, and it seems like this project in conjunction with the nearby Branson Landing development will turn downtown into an area that will carry Branson’s allure well into the future.

What do you think about this project and Branson development in general? Let us know in this discussion thread on our forums. We’ll be sure to check out the finished project next summer!

 

 

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