The purchase of 14 acres on the east side of Amarillo, Texas, will allow the building of a bigger Big Texan Steak Ranch that may open by November 2017.
Owners plan to use the space to bring together a large tourist complex featuring a new 60- to 80,000-square-foot restaurant that will be able to handle the ever-growing crowds and wait times at the internationally-known restaurant.
The hope is also to surround the restaurant with attractions on parcels of land that will be sold or leased to developers, co-owner Bobby Lee said. Those attractions could range from a hotel with an indoor water park to youth athletic facilities and possible amusement rides.
“The whole development is based around keeping people in Amarillo an extra day or two so they don’t just fly through Amarillo on their way to the mountains or on their way to Dallas,” he said. “Give them a reason to stay here in Amarillo and discover the area — that’s the whole idea.”
The 14-acre tract included Splash Kingdom Water Park. The fate of the park remains unknown, but options from interested parties include leasing it or moving it elsewhere.
Lee told the newspaper he’d present the Big Texan redevelopment plan to the Amarillo city council in the next 45 to 60 days.
Lee said last summer he was contemplating a bigger Big Texan Steak Ranch because wait times for a meal have swelled to 90 minutes during lunch and dinner, despite the Big Texan’s capacity of 500 people. It serves an estimated 500,000 meals per year and is the county’s biggest seller of alcoholic beverages by far.
“Fifty-six years later, you think you’d slow down a bit, but it just keeps getting bigger and bigger,” Lee said of the business, which was first established by Robert J. “Bob” Lee in 1960 on Route 66 in Amarillo, later moving to the I-40 location in 1970. “This is our opportunity to throw this thing 50 years into future.”
Lee said the things that made the Big Texan famous — the 72-ounce steak dinner challenge and its Old West decor — will remain with the new place.
(Image of the Big Texan Steak Ranch by Lee Winder via Flickr)