‘We’re pretty close’: Waco Hippodrome plans to make full post-COVID comeback

Published: Jul. 1, 2021 at 4:52 PM CDT
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WACO, Texas (KWTX) - Some promising news for a State of Texas Historic Landmark that had to scale back operations significantly due to the pandemic.

The Waco Hippodrome has a few irons in the fire and is on the verge of a full reopening, officials say.

In November of 2020, many workers there were blindsided when they learned they would be out of a job because most of the venue, including the movie theatres and restaurants, were being shutdown--a casualty of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We had been discussing the difficulties of going through a year of shutdown and people being reasonably afraid of coming out in public, and with everything locked down and at 25, 50 percent capacity, we said maybe this is a time to restructure,” said Aaron Konzelman, booking coordinator for the Hippodrome.

The pandemic crippled most of the entertainment industry in Texas with capacity limitations and restrictions, and historic venues like the Hippodrome were not immune.

“The term ‘starving artist’ literally became legit during all of 2020,” said Konzelman.

But it wasn’t all bad, Konzelman sayas: after they scaled back, they used that time to rethink their business model and figure out ways to do it better.

“It’s really helped us rethink,” said Konzelman. “Being able to take the last few months of kind of having part of that stopped, has let us dream a little bit about more things we could start doing when we get it picked back up.”

And things, music-wise at least, have picked back up, he says, and they’ve been able to re-hire some staffers on a show-by-show basis.

“We have almost every weekend for the rest of the year booked,” said Konzelman. “People that maybe would have diverted around (Waco) before in the past are so desperate to get shows and build out their tours they’re like ‘well, we’re going to be in Austin anyways, we got to get to Waco, we got to get to Waco.’”

Concerts and other events in the main event room have kept the lights on, but now, Konzelman says, the developers, Turner Behringer Real Estate, are in discussions with people interested in bringing the dead parts of the building back to life again.

“The Turners are property developers, they create ideas and they develop properties to bring in new businesses, and so when they originally reopened the Hippodrome, their thought was ‘well, let’s get a restaurant going, let’s get movies going, let’s create this hub of downtown, ya know, maybe not intending to run everything forever, but eventually hoping somebody would come in and maybe take it and run with it,” explained Konzelman.

“It’s publicly being offered right now, and the goal is to get in a great business partner who really knows how to do restaurant business and has some great new ideas to bring to Waco and get them to kind of re-bring back up to life that part of the building in partnership with us doing the live concerts so we can do food again, we can do movies throughout the day,” he said.

He says the plan has always been to get the movies and restaurants going again, and while there’s no concrete date yet, he says they’re “pretty close.”

“They are in the process of discussions with some people who are interested in leasing out that part again in partnership with us to reopen different versions of the restaurants,” said Konzelman. “We’re working through those details.”

Konzelman says now is the time to get back out and watch shows because the more traffic venues get, the faster the entertainment industry can bounce back.

“The more we can book shows, the more people come out, the more we get traffic and people coming through and back to live music, it enables us to offer more things throughout the week,” he said.

Upcoming entertainment at the Waco Hippodrome can be found here.

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