River improvements, movie theater in the works for city of Belton

The rumors are true.  A $4.5 million six-screen movie theater will be opening in the spring in Belton, and Nolan Creek is undergoing a $1.5 million recreational improvement project.

Both of these additions will benefit UMHB as well as students by providing more local entertainment options. The proposed Nolan Creek plan will allow for the creation of a whitewater park that will be used for fishing, kayaking, canoeing, stand up paddle boarding and tubing.

Mark Arrazola, programs director at The Belton Area Chamber of Commerce and UMHB class of ’05, believes that both additions will help keep money local.

“With the addition of new businesses and attractions to Belton, students are getting a lesson on shopping local. Why drive far and spend money on gas when you can do the same thing here and save money, travel time and support the community?” he said.

Grand Avenue Theaters will be located on Oakmark Drive behind the Walgreens and Jack-in-the-Box in Belton.  It will premier first-run movies in auditoriums ranging from around 75 seats to 300. The three larger screens will have 3-D options as well as reserved seating.

Unlike the other theaters in Temple or Harker Heights, Grand Avenue Theaters will offer a movie and grill format.  There will be a full cafe when patrons walk through the door with menu items such as burgers and pizza and an old fashioned soda fountain.

David K. Leigh, president of Grand Avenue Theaters, has several big ideas for the independent theater.

“We want to use kiosks for customers to order tickets as well as food,” he said.  “After you place your order, you take the buzzer and go find a seat. When the buzzer goes off, you go pick up your tray and enjoy.”

Also, don’t be surprised if Grand Avenue Theaters creates an app that enables the purchase of tickets and food.

“We are trying to appeal to both the younger and older generations. The younger moviegoers want to do everything online and before they step foot in the theater,” he said. “However, the older crowd likes the box office feel of waiting in line and getting their big bag of popcorn and carrying it into the theater.”

Although the theater will be all digital and social media savvy, Leigh hopes to create a retro vibe with the art deco decor in the cafe as well as the neon sign above the entrance.

Ticket prices will be competitive with the surrounding theaters, and Leigh is hoping to be able to offer discount ticket prices on certain nights designated for students.

As if a new theater is not enough excitement for a small town, the Nolan Creek project will also enhance the quality of local entertainment options in Belton for students.

Jerri Gauntt, Support Service Coordinator for the city of Belton is a strong advocate for cleaning up the creek for recreational purposes.

“You can float, kayak or canoe on Nolan Creek today,” she said. “We would not recommend swimming or other ‘contact recreation’ where you may stick your head in the water and ingest large quantities; however, our most recent water quality test have been very, very good.”

Although this project is still in the early stages and needs more funding and grants, a proposed plan is in place to hopefully set Nolan Creek on the right track for being a fun, college hang-out spot.

The concept plan allows for an enhanced flood warning system, improved water quality, water access and recreation and improved roads, trails and sidewalks.

“Everyone should be excited because it will provide our community with newer and better safety features, with new connections to the outdoors and even more opportunities to be a fit and healthy community,” Gauntt said.

The design report drawn up by Recreation Engineering and Planning based in Colorado includes several whitewater drop features, creekside access, pool areas and several tubing put-in and take-out locations.

Although there is no set date for when all the improvements will be completed, Nolan Creek should be ready to welcome visitors within the next two years.

Author: Lindsay Schaefer

Lindsay Schaefer is a junior Mass Communication, Public Relations major at UMHB. She is the Entertainment Page editor for The Bells Newspaper. Growing up in the small town of Nacogdoches, Texas taught her to enjoy the simple things in life such as local cuisine, an afternoon at grandma’s house, and getting to know her “neighbors”. If she’s not hunting for the latest pair of shoes, she can most likely be found eating chocolate cake with her closest friends. She enjoys making copies for the Bells newspaper and taking on many other random assignments!

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