BRANDON — The opening of Dave & Buster's today is a long anticipated day for many. The business is already booked up with private parties through the end of the year.
The arrival of the restaurant and arcade also signals that the development known as The Estuary — anchored by Bass Pro Shops Outdoor World — is a step closer to branding itself as the region's biggest family-friendly entertainment hub.
Dave & Buster's offers food, drink, 38 wall-to-wall big-screen televisions and 172 video games, encompassing 40,000 square feet of space in The Estuary — the 148-acre mixed use development at the intersection of the Selmon Expressway and Interstate 75.
Dave & Buster's has an overall capacity of 2,000 people and is creating 250 jobs.
This will be the 101st location for the Dallas-based chain, the sixth in Florida and the first on the state's west coast.
The Tampa site will offer a bit more than many of the others, according to Tim Johnson, general manager.
Patrons can enjoy 38 high-definition big-screen TVs, two of them measuring 190 inches, showing games from all the major sports programming packages.
"I think even in a bad seat, you can still see TVs from 60 feet away," Johnson said.
The location will offer simulator games as well as redemption games — those that spit out tickets to cash in for prizes. The lure of Dave & Buster's is playing games in groups rather than alone at home, said Gary Passardi, regional director of new openings.
"The dynamic of all that is what makes it a place to have fun for anyone," Passardi said.
The lure of a larger entertainment hub eventually landed Dave & Buster's in its newest location, he said.
Entertainment districts are springing up all over the country as planners work to generate revenue, jobs and increase the lure of the live-work-play environment.
Development of The Estuary, which also includes the indoor skydiving center iFly and a Topgolf location, hinged on $6 million in publicly funded road improvements spearheaded by Hillsborough County Commissioner Ken Hagan and approved by the county commission.
"With Bass Pro Shops and those three, I knew we had a great combination for an entertainment district," Hagan said.
And business is booming.
Topgolf officials recently told Hagan that the venue has shattered records at that location. Tampa General Hospital has also located a new Brandon Healthplex there.
All told, The Estuary employs about 3,000 people.
"I looked at this as an investment," Hagan said. "It's going to pay for itself within three years."
The county commissioner said he expects the development to earn upwards of $3 million a year in tax revenues.
"We've never had an economic development that has had such a great return on revenue, not only in sales taxes but in commercial tax revenue."
Plans are in the works to add a hotel and one or two specialty restaurants to the entertainment hub, Hagan said. There already are several hotels and restaurants in the immediate vicinity.
Easy access by road pulls in patrons from New Tampa, South Tampa, the SouthShore area and even from cities outside of Hillsborough County.
"At many Dave & Buster's, you'll see a hotel near it," Hagan said. "In those, they found that 50 percent of their customers are people who drive more than 50 miles to get there."
He expects full build-out in the area within two years.
"It's a model we'll be using going forward for any entertainment projects."
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