Wildhorse fills holes

Tenants: New movie theater provides big boost to shopping area

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— Two years after construction started on Wildhorse Marketplace, the original vision for the project is taking shape -- and Steamboat Springs is now a two-movie-theater town.

The sidewalks at Wildhorse Marketplace have been bustling with visitors and residents. Tenants at the shopping area at Mount Werner Road and Central Park Drive credit the increase in traffic to the site to the opening of Wildhorse Stadium Cinemas.

"It was slow," Amante Coffee Manager Matthew Farrington said about business in the shopping center before the movie theater opened this summer. "A lot of people didn't really know we were here."

The theater is appearing to fill its role as the anchor for Wildhorse Marketplace, which eventually will provide 88,000 square feet of commercial space. After construction delays, the theater opened May 19.

"Snow and adverse weather conditions really slowed things down," said Mark Green, the theater's general manager. "The feedback I've been getting from local merchants is, 'We're glad you're open. What took you so long?'"

Green expected a busy weekend with the opening of "Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest."

"Things are going good and getting ready to get very, very good," Green said Thursday.

The proximity to the movie theater was the main draw for several of the merchants, which include The Sports Authority, Wildhorse, Ben & Jerry's Ice Cream, Quiznos, Tall Tulips and Amante Coffee, which is a full-service bar in addition to serving imported Italian coffee.

Farrington said there typically is a line out Amante's door each morning. Business is steady during the day and comes in waves from people going to or leaving the theater at night.

The location in Steamboat is the third Amante cafe, Farrington said. There are two Amantes in Boulder.

He said the big draw to opening a store at Wildhorse was the movie theater, which is next door. Amante opened in August 2005, when Farrington said they thought the theater was going to open. Business started off slow, but people

began to find the stores.

"The place doesn't look like a construction zone anymore," Farrington said.

Construction could resume soon, however, as the second phase of the project is built.

There is still some vacant space available in the first phase. As soon as that is filled and there is interest in the second phase space, construction will begin, Wildhorse Marketplace leasing agent Michael Becky said. The second phase will mirror the completed phase on the opposite side of the roundabout. Space also has been set aside for a potential future restaurant.

Across town in downtown Steamboat, the Chief Plaza The----ater remains open and busy at times despite competition from the six-screen Wildhorse multiplex.

The theaters do not show the same films, and movies are divided evenly between the theaters by the distributor, Green said.

The downtown theater is as much an anchor for downtown as the Wildhorse theater is for Wildhorse Marketplace, said Tracy Barnett, executive director of Main Street Steamboat Springs.

"It's one of the few entertainment options that (downtown) Steamboat Springs has for families," Barnett said.

The Main Street organization works to promote downtown, and Barnett said she has been in contact with the owner of the building about the future of the theater.

She said the theater company's lease on the space is set to expire in 2007, but they have an option to extend their lease another five years.

Ideally, she said they would like the existing theater to be remodeled and possibly turned into a performing arts center or some other social destination besides a bar or restaurant.

"Everybody isn't just twentysomething and doesn't want to go to the bars and listen to loud music," Barnett said. "We just don't have many options in downtown."

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