With its red roof peaking above the treetops, the old Factory Merchants outlet serves is a reminder that Branson has its ups and downs.
“At the time it was a very popular outlet mall. It brought in a lot of tax revenue,” stated Garrett Anderson, Economic Development Director for the City of Branson.
The mall built in the late 1980s. It slowly withered away over the years thanks to competition from other local shopping centers. These days there are no shoppers toting bags. In fact, the shops themselves are gone. The last businesses pulled out in 2011.
Since then, the city has had a dead mall on its hands. Several ideas have been brought up, including proposals to turn the place into a college campus, or indoor gardening facility. Another popular idea was converting the site into some sort of sports complex. It is that very idea that is soon becoming a reality.
Ballparks of America, a group of developers from Chicago, has plans to turn the site into a massive baseball sports complex for youth leagues.
The project will include building multiple fields. Most of the current buildings will be turned into stadium seating areas for fans.
After it’s built, when you’re in the stands rooting on the teams, you might get the feeling you are somewhere much bigger than Branson. Plans call for each field to be scaled-down versions of the major league fields all across the country, like Busch, Fenway, and Wrigley.
The proposal also includes dormitories for team players to stay in, along with dining facilities for families and other spectators.
“Branson is always looking to diversify the types of people that come to Branson. We feel the young families associated with these kids will be a great fit,” said Anderson.
Anderson says construction on the project could start in the coming months. The first pitch could be thrown in the completed complex in the summer of 2015.