Waco businessman Mark Schulman, in an interview Saturday, provided a few more details about his plans to bring a 90,000-square-foot entertainment venue to South Loop 340 and Interstate 35, where it would anchor a 300-plus-acre mixed-use development.
The Schulman’s Movie Bowl Grille will have a 30-lane bowling alley; a full-service restaurant; an eight-screen movie theater with food delivery and recliners; and a game room with table tennis, pool tables, ax throwing, laser tag, ropes courses and virtual reality games.
Schulman filled in some details Saturday about the estimated $25 million to $30 million project on which he will break ground this month.
The complex will employ an estimated 250 people, including 75 full-timers.
“The others are seasonal but nearly all will work 30 to 40 hours a week,” Schulman said. “There are peaks and valleys, but not many valleys.”
Schulman has opened other Schulman Movie Bowl Grille locations in Sherman, Corsicana and Bay City. He said he is savoring the opportunity to build in his hometown. He began opening multi-screen movie theaters locally in the mid-1980s, collaborating with his brother, Morris Schulman, and his Schulman Amusement Co. remains headquartered on Lake Shore Drive.
MKT Real Estate Holdings LLC will own the entertainment venue and will play a role in developing the remaining 300-plus acres, Schulman said. 58 Aggie Development LLC will ensure it gets built, probably by next summer.
Partners in MKT include Schulman, the “M” in MKT, as well as Ken Goodman and Tony Martinez. Schulman and Goodman reportedly go way back. Goodman and Chuck Robertson founded Karbach Brewing Co., which was bought in 2016 by Anheuser-Busch Inbev and has operations in Houston. Goodman also owned C.R. Goodman, a Colorado-based beer distributor that also sold in 2016, to another Colorado distributor.
Martinez, meanwhile, is affiliated with an oilfield services business on the Gulf Coast and invested in Schulman’s entertainment venture in Bay City.
Schulman described the complex’s restaurant, Billy’s Grille & Bar, as a “mix of George’s and Cheddar’s, and maybe toss in a little bit of Texas Roadhouse or Saltgrass.” The full-service restaurant will serve burgers, steaks, seafood, salads, pizza and appetizers. At least 86 craft beers will appear on the menu, and TV screens will provide an array of viewing options, he said.
“You don’t have to go to the movie to eat, but you can,” Schulman said.
The 30-lane bowling alley “will be geared toward open family bowling,” he said. Leagues do not represent a priority.
A separate area will accommodate duckpin bowling, a variation in which bowlers use smaller balls with no finger holes.
Hoping the 340-acre site becomes popular with tourists, conventioneers and business groups, the entertainment venue will have meeting, banquet and party rooms and web conferencing.
“We have multiple hotel representatives talking with us, and there is interest in putting a hotel and conference center on this site,” Schulman said. “There are a lot more people coming to Waco than there were in 1986, when I opened my first ‘Schulman’ here. There has been a nice build-up of hotel properties, and other high-end places are planned. But tourism has grown exponentially the past five years, which was hard to imagine.
“A lot of positive things are going on, and MKT Properties would like to lead the charge at this particular site. I think (local real estate agent) Bland (Cromwell) was right when he said this is the best location on Interstate 35. It’s right on Highway 6, our gateway entry, and I think what we have planned gives it a good head start.”
Across I-35 from Schulman’s project, between Central Texas Marketplace and New Road, Houston-based NewQuest Properties has proposed placing a 143-acre mixed-use development anchored by a 14-screen Cinemark theater.
Developers of the Cinemark project, like MKT Real Estate Holdings, are pursuing tax breaks from the city of Waco.
“I never like to comment on someone else’s plans,” Schulman said. “Theater-to-theater, I think we can coexist. We’re now getting a lot of screens in Waco, though some are fairly dated. The AMC (on South Valley Mills Drive) obviously is a big company. They have 16 screens and an Imax theater. Of the two complexes, AMC and the Regal (on Highway 84), AMC has a larger share of the market. But, as I said, Waco’s grown a lot since the mid-1980s and early 1990s. We’ll just have to wait and see what everyone’s game plan is. I can’t speak for other people’s projects, but we are very confident.”
Schulman said he often is asked about movies that never make it to Waco, art films, niche films and those pegged for limited release.
“Believe it or not, we used to get more of those movies than we do today,” he said. “Things have changed with the advent of companies wanting a quick release and then transfer to (video on demand) format. I do see there being some special content offered in the market going forward. The Hippodrome has been involved in some of that. I would like to see the opportunity broadened to play a variety of films during the course of the year, to become more creative in your scheduling.”