Craig Wescott had a big goal in 2016: to change the Branson skyline with an iconic attraction.
Wescott, the CEO and co-owner of The Track Family Fun Parks, purchased and relocated Chicago’s famed Navy Pier Ferris wheel to the Branson Highway 76 strip. His months-long effort to introduce the Branson Ferris Wheel last summer turned out to be his proudest professional accomplishment.
“The entire journey was always about more than adding another attraction to our facility,” Wescott says. “It was for all of Branson, and the community wrapped its arms around this undertaking from the moment we announced it.”
Wescott surely led the way. He paid almost $2 million for the 150-foot-tall attraction, but invested $4 million when all was said and done to create the right environment for riders. The team decorated it with 16,000 LED lights to give the ride a nighttime glow. The Track’s putt-putt golf course was converted to welcome the wheel, and he added a ticket office along with a small souvenir photo shop at the base.
“It was a marquee project that kicked off a record year of development and redevelopment in Branson and the Tri-Lakes market,” Wescott says, citing regional and international support. “It took leap after leap of faith, navigating the highs and lows of a big project.”
He worked with Netherlands company Dutch Wheels, which dismantled the 40-gondola Ferris wheel after a 20-year run in Chicago before rebuilding it in southwest Missouri. Wescott’s project contributed to some $350 million in project investments in the Branson market last year.
In his day-to-day work, Wescott is responsible for four attractions plus 14 go-kart tracks run by parent company Recreational Management Inc. He was appointed CEO in 2016, from a three-year stint as president of the family business founded by his father in 1981. Today, The Track attracts 250,000-300,000 guests annually, and it employs 25 year-round and around 250 seasonally.
Wescott directs the short- and long-term strategies of the company, as well as its vision and values. Other oversight is on the financials, personnel, guest experience and safety – a key element considering there’s batting cages, bumper boats and laser tag in addition to the go-kart tracks up to four stories tall.
He’s known to deliver motivational presentations at entertainment and travel conferences, most recently at the Saffire Summit in Austin, Texas, the Face 2 Face Entertainment Conference in Atlanta and the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions in Orlando.
Closer to home, Wescott currently serves as a director on the Branson Board of Education, the Branson/Lakes Area Chamber of Commerce & Convention and Visitors Bureau, and the Highway 76 Entertainment Community Improvement District. As well, Central Bank of Branson appointed him to its advisory board, as did Project Branson, a private, pro-business group.
“I live in a wonderful community, and that makes it easy to want to get involved however possible,” he says.
He’s also a musician, playing guitar and singing in the five-person acoustic band Mile Zero, and with a 15-person group of travel professionals nationwide called the Student Travel Association Band.
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