Williamson County is receiving new entertainment amenities, including incoming concessions and performers in Cedar Park, the relocation of an iconic Austin live music venue to Round Rock and the building of a children’s theater in Georgetown.
These types of additions align with each city’s desire to bring more entertainment options to residents.
“In the past we’ve had to go somewhere else to get that kind of entertainment, but increasingly we’ve been able to stay here at home and enjoy some performing arts, listen to great music and not have to get on the highway to get there,” Williamson County Commissioner Cynthia Long said.
On Oct. 10, Cedar Park Center, which is home to Texas Stars of the American Hockey League and NBA-D League Austin Spurs, began offering new concessions because of a new partnership with Ryan Sanders Sports Services, or RS3, which runs concessions at area venues such as The Dell Diamond, Austin360 Amphitheater and Circuit of The Americas.
Concessions now include alligator bites, grilled cheese hot dogs and hot Cuban sandwiches, and CPC now also offers storefront-like restaurants such as Texas Smokehouse, Smokey Mo’s Bar-B-Q and Fairlane’s Diner.
In the spring, Legends Football League, a professional women’s tackle football league that appeared as a Super Bowl halftime show, will begin at the CPC.
In September, Mike Farr, owner of Austin live music venue Nutty Brown Cafe, announced he would move the business to Round Rock in 2017.
The Palace Theatre plans to expand by constructing a freestanding facility for its children’s program. Executive Director Marissa Austin said the facility will be located at the corner of Rock and Second streets when it opens in spring 2018.
“This new facility will allow … our program to grow with Georgetown and Williamson County,” Austin said. “It’s a booming area, and it’s growing quickly and we want to be able to support that growth.”
City leaders in Cedar Park, Georgetown and Round Rock hope to create a larger footprint for entertainment in their respective cities in the coming years.
In Cedar Park city officials are spearheading a long-term project to revitalize a portion of Bell Boulevard, one of the city’s older areas of town, to create a destination for residents to eat, shop and work. In August, City Council approved the plan to redevelop the area for mixed-use development such as apartments, restaurants, offices and shops. On Election Day, Nov. 3, Cedar Park residents approved $20 million in bonds for Bell redevelopment. The city is also actively seeking a private partnership to help fund and develop the project, Assistant City Manager Katherine Caffrey said.
“The way that things have been designed, especially with the [new] park to be there, we’re looking at things like amphitheaters and large areas that would be suitable for farmers markets and festivals,” Caffrey said. “As we look at the Bell Boulevard development, we do see a need for [smaller] events.”
While city officials in Cedar Park are striving to redevelop a portion of the city, Georgetown and possibly Round Rock plan to build new structures to accommodate community needs.
The Palace’s growing roster for its year-round children’s programs dictates additional space is needed, Austin said. This summer, The Palace rented an additional facility to accommodate the program. However it still was not sufficient, she said.
Austin said the program, which serves children throughout Williamson County, started in 2004 as a summer workshop, but demand grew the program to be year-round training in dancing, singing and acting, she said. The expansion fits into the city’s vision to create more of an entertainment district in downtown Georgetown, City Planner Matt Synatschk said.
“We’ve had a little bit of a shift from that 8-to-5 type of business to having more of an entertainment area on and around the Square with the new restaurants and some of the other activities that are going on,” he said.
In Round Rock, a proposal for a large-scale arts venue is on the table after a former bond committee recommendation. City Council hired an architecture firm to come up with a potential concept for the venue, which was presented to council members in July. The proposal included a 70,800 square foot arts facility with a performance hall and flexible theater with seating for approximately 1,125 patrons. The firm estimated the facility would cost around $46 million-$49.8 million. The firm stated to proceed with such a facility, the city would need to select a site, commence architectural design services and prepare a bond referendum.
Competing for dollars
Area cities have been competing for fans and economic contribution since the build-out of venues.
Phil Brewer, Cedar Park economic development director, said when the CPC was built in 2009, it was intended to serve as an “economic engine for that quadrant of town in terms of generating economic activity.”
The economic downturn slowed the development of the 17 acres around the CPC, Brewer said, but within the next three to five years, the tract could receive restaurants, retail, hotels and offices.
“We’re seeing a lot of interest in projects in that area now,” Brewer said. “One of the biggest things attracting that interest is the Cedar Park Center. … It was always the vision [for it] to be this multi-event center and … for it to be a state-of-the-art, first-class facility that would stand the test of time—something the city and our citizens could be proud of for many, many years.”
In May, Leander Chamber of Commerce & Visitors Center hosted its inaugural Old Town Street Festival to promote local businesses and attract visitors into the city. About 3,000 people attended the event, according to the chamber, which plans to host the event again in 2016.
Nearby in Georgetown, Austin said The Palace attracts visitors by offering opportunities for the community to participate in its shows.
“We work really hard … to [provide] high-quality and affordable arts, entertainment and education,” Austin said. “We see ourselves as not only a theater but as a community service. We want adults and children to be involved, from sitting in the seats and watching our shows to being on stage … to building our set. … We want them to be part of our family.”