Waukee's new IMAX theater complex breaks ground
The building boom that has defined Des Moines since the recession will continue in the new year. Kim Norvell/Des Moines Register
Des Moines-based Fridley Theatres has broken ground on a long-awaited IMAX and movie theater complex in Waukee.
The 15-screen facility will feature luxury recliners in every theater and offer some auditoriums with in-seat dining. The Palms Theatres is scheduled to open in November.
The Waukee City Council last week approved a development agreement for the theater complex, located on 15 acres of land on Hickman Road between Northeast Dartmoor Drive and Northeast Westgate Drive, near Hy-Vee.
Fridley Theatres will pay 20 percent of its property taxes for seven years in exchange for the 66,000-square foot facility, a new city street connecting Northeast Dartmoor Drive and Northeast Westgate Drive and other infrastructure improvements.
The property tax rebate will total about $1.64 million.
Incentives were offered to offset the construction cost of the new street, valued at about $1.1 million, and because the project will be a regional attraction that is unique to Waukee, said Dan Dutcher, community and economic development director. The city council had identified attracting a theater complex to the city as a priority last year, he said.
"It is a fantastic amenity for the community of Waukee, but ultimately we expect it to draw all of Des Moines and central Iowa," said Russell Vannorsdel, Fridley Theatres' director of operations.
This will be the second IMAX screen in the Des Moines metro. The Science Center of Iowa's Blank IMAX Dome Theater has a 180-degree screen that is six stories tall. Other IMAX theaters in Iowa are in Council Bluffs and Davenport.
The Palms Theatres will have an 85-foot-wide IMAX Laser GT, making it the largest screen in Iowa. Original plans, announced in September 2016, called for a seven stories tall, 97½ feet wide IMAX screen — making it the largest in the world — but Fridley Theatres ran into complications with financing and design, he said. A larger screen also limits the viewing experience and number of seats, he said.
"We looked to still have a very large screen where the first few rows could still enjoy the entire presentation," Vannorsdel said.
Also planned for the Palms Theatres are 14 additional screens, all with luxury recliners. Up to eight auditoriums will offer in-seat food and beverages with a full wait staff, similar to Flix Brewhouse in Des Moines.
There will be a small restaurant and bar that offers seats for in-house dining, as well as take-out orders that can be eaten in all of the theaters. Each recliner seat will be equipped with a table and cup holder.
"You've got the ability to pick which amenity you want in this facility," Vannorsdel said.
As part of the development agreement, Fridley Theatres is required to invest at least $10 million. Vannorsdel estimates the building itself, without the interior amenities, will cost $15 million. He declined to provide a total cost estimate.
Fridley Theatres began moving dirt at the site last week. An official ground breaking ceremony will be held at 11 a.m. Jan. 3.
The company expects to announce more information about the Palms Theatres' amenities as construction moves forward.