Branson Mall Managing Owner Brad Petersen said it generally takes three years for a new show or attraction to find consistent success in the local tourism industry.
The 2012 season was going to be Petersen’s third year back at the helm of the 68,000-square-foot mall on 76 Country Boulevard.
“Absolutely,” he said, when asked if it feels like he has to start over after an EF2 tornado severely damaged the property on Leap Day. “We had a very good year last year, and we were very much looking forward to this year. This is a big blow.”
Petersen said the mall suffered damage to every one of its five skylights and most of its approximately 40 HVAC units. A large portion of its front wall was torn to the ground, and its signs were pelted by hundreds of rocks from the roof of the neighboring Jubilee grocery store, he said.
“About one-third of the roof was exposed,” he said. “We have structural damage and our theater had severe water damage.”
Hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of light, sound and video equipment is suspected to have been compromised by the 6 inches of water that leaked into the 700-seat Branson Mall Music Theatre. Petersen said it could take four weeks before the insurance adjusters and engineers have a full damage estimate.
He said his best guess is it will be four to six months before the mall can reopen. But, he said rebuilding and reopening is the desire of the mall’s 10 investors, which includes himself.
“We like Branson,” he said. “It’s the entertainment capital of the Midwest and we enjoy the challenges that Branson brings.”
Petersen estimated that close to 30 retail stores, food vendors, kiosks, attractions and shows depended on the Branson Mall. That includes the Branson Dinosaur Museum, which just moved into the venue for its first season a few months ago and the lineup of about a dozen entertainers who performed free shows on Center Stage.
“We have insurance. Things can be rebuilt,” he said. “My heart hurts the worst for all of our entertainers. There’s no insurance for them.”
The Branson Mall opened in 1987.