Denison City officials received an update on plans to build a new entertainment complex in Gateway Village Tuesday when representatives for HeyDay Entertainment presented a site plan and replat to the Denison Planning and Zoning Commission.

This is the first public update on the project since developers first announced plans to build the new entertainment venue near the intersection of FM 691 and U.S. Highway 75 in September. This represents the first Texas location for the Norman-based entertainment chain.

During Tuesday’s meeting, the commission approved the first set of preliminary documents for the project, which included a replat that added an additional three acres of land to the project footprint. In total, the project tract sits on about 4.85 acres of land.

“Basically, we plat all of that (land) into one single lot,” Ryan Johnson, representing Covenant Development, said following Tuesday’s meeting.

Variances approved

During the same meeting, the commission also approved a highway-oriented site plan for the project that include variances to parking requirements and regulations on construction materials for the project. Neither item received any opposition and there was little discussion by the commission prior to approval.

During the discussion on the site plan, Planning Manager Steven Doss said the entertainment venue would offer multiple services, which include bowling, outdoor mini-golf and dining options, at the same location. In most cases, the development would have to meet the parking requirements for all of these uses together. For the HeyDay development, this would require approximately 280 parking spaces for the location.

Instead, the current site plan calls for 239 spaces, including spaces along Gateway Boulevard. As the Gateway Development is zoned as a planned development, which offers some flexibility to developers for larger, more specialized developments, representatives for the project are able to submit an alternative parking plan. Based on the unique nature of the project, city staff said they felt comfortable with the proposed plan.

Developers also requested a second variance that would allow for alternative construction materials for the site. Under the Gateway Village planned development, buildings are required to be constructed of brick, stone, synthetic stone or stucco for the first floor. However, as portions of the first floor extend up to 16 feet, developers asked for a variance to allow for a 30 percent stone with the remainder constructed from a combination of stone, concrete tilt wall, architectural metal and ceramic tile as accents.

Staff noted that all of the materials, with the exception of ceramic tile, are allowed above the first floor. Ceramic tile is allowed in the planned development as a material for accents and trim design.

City staff also noted that the plans for the development also call for the extension of both Gateway Boulevard and Convention Way, which currently run along the exterior of the Hilton Garden Inn and Texoma Event Center.

Developers discuss plans

In an exclusive interview with the Herald Democrat, Tom Johnson, developer for Gateway Village, Denison Mayor Jared Johnson and Brad and Keri Little, owners of HeyDay Entertainment, discussed additional plans regarding the location last week.

With the Denison location, Brad Little said he expects to draw visitors from as far away as McKinney. Despite the number of attractions closer to the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex, Brad Little said, unless families are wanting to visit multiple destinations, he feels that visitors would be willing to travel north to avoid traffic and congestion in the big cities.

“I am confident in our ability to pull from areas like Paris to the east and Gainesville to the west,” he said.

Destination location

Tom Johnson said the HeyDay development comes amid a shift by developers away from big-box retail as an anchor for commercial and retail development. Instead, many developers are looking for family entertainment venues like HeyDay to serve as the anchor for future growth.

For Gateway Village, Tom Johnson said he hopes that HeyDay will attract smaller retail shops around its footprint in the surrounding 80 acres designated for such development. Through this, he said he hopes that developments like HeyDay and other retail can make the development itself a destination location.

Along with the nearby Texoma Health Foundation Park, Jared Johnson said he hopes that the Gateway Village development itself will not only bring in everyday traffic, but will also see significant weekend visitors who will dine and shop while in Denison.

Workforce impact

Brad Little said he plans to hire about 100 employees for the Denison location, with all wages above minimum. Employees would start at $8 an hour, with a 50 cent increase after the first six months. Sales employees, managers and cooks will make significantly more, Brad Little said.

Brad Little said he has always prided himself on the low turnover he has been able to maintain with his locations in Norman and Oklahoma City. As an example, during a nine-week closure of the Norman location for renovations, Brad Little said he was able to retain all but one of his employees at the location.

Competing development

Just a few days before city officials announced the HeyDay development, representatives with Schulman’s Movie Bowl Grille, a competing entertainment venue, also announced plans to open a location at Hwy. 75 and Crawford. Both locations initially announced plans to open in Denison in late 2018, however developers with Schulman’s have since said that development of the entertainment complex will come after retail development at the location.

Despite market research by Denison that indicates that the region could only support one of these venues, Brad Little said he still remains confident about the vitality of the project. Brad Little said there is a competing business just across the street from his Norman location, but the business still remains strong.

Brad Little said plans are still in place for major construction to begin early next year ahead of a fall 2018 opening. He added that additional details related to some features and amenities at the site will be coming as opening day approaches. Similarly, Tom Johnson said he expects announcements regarding pad sites and nearby retail in the coming months.