“There’s something drawing them and they want to be part of this. They want to experience what’s going on in Waco.”
I absolutely fell in love with the direction of the city. Not just the city, the city’s an easy place to love. It’s got a lot of action, it’s beautiful, and I’ve been to Waco many times prior to [working here.] But [it’s] the direction of the community, the true hospitality of the hospitality industry. I’ve worked with a lot of very inhospitable hospitality people, but here, they believe it, they live it. Whether we’re talking about hoteliers, or you’re talking about the people in the attractions. They don’t just work at the Texas Ranger Museum, they believe in the Texas Ranger Museum, or the zoo, or the all the other places. That just made it exciting with the things going on and things we hope to happen in the future. I want to be part of this.
Magnolia gave Waco an exclamation point that it didn’t necessarily have before on a national and international basis, and everything’s building off that. That doesn’t mean we’re all Magnolia or anything like that by any means. But Magnolia is an important part, and it has to be recognized as an important part.
We have gone from a place that for people going between Austin and Dallas, we used to just be a quick stop along the way to get gas or something like that. Now, both places [Dallas and Austin] are coming to us. 28 or 29 percent of all of our visitors to Waco come from the D-FW area, and they’re overnighting. Even when they’re an hour-and-a-half from D-FW, but yet they’re overnighting here. There’s something drawing them and they want to be part of this. They want to experience what’s going on in Waco. When you look at the stats on who spends the most money here, it’s people from Los Angeles. Now, how long ago was it that Waco maybe wasn’t even in the mindset of someone in Los Angeles?
Things are building, they are growing. Combine that with the activities just at Baylor. I’ll pick on Baylor football only because I had a lot of years of experience working with Nebraska football – and they were the number one power in the nation – so I know what big time football can mean to a community. The fact that we’re about to have eight home games for the ‘23 season, that’s unheard of. You usually get six – maybe seven – but you don’t get eight. But that’s just an opportunity for us. Everything we get to do is just an opportunity for growth. The fact that we’re going to host the eclipse for the world on April 8, 2024 is an act of astronomical amazement, because we’ve got nothing to do with that. The sun’s coming here. Even the sun wants to be in Waco.
Rowing is the same thing. Rowing comes out of nowhere, in a sense, and now we’re about to host our second big rowing event in April. And we’re hoping to be a natural training site for Olympic teams for the ‘28 Games in Los Angeles. It can’t get more exciting than that, at least for me.