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Taney Co. unemployment rate 13.9 percent

Branson Job Service reported the March unemployment rate for Taney County was 13.9 percent, down compared to 20.5 percent in March of last year. In Stone County, the March unemployment rate was 13.8 percent, compared to the unemployment rate of 24.8 percent in March 1998. The statewide unemployment rate was 3 percent in March.

1999 economy 'robust,' city officials say

According to the city of Branson, its local economy has been robust so far in 1999. For the year, revenue from the city sales tax is up 9 percent and the tourism tax has increased 4 percent compared to the same period in 1998. The city reported new construction is about $2 million, or 18 percent, ahead of last year. With the number of visitors to the area up 2 percent from last year, officials are predicting that total visitors will top the 7-million mark this year.

IMAX expands with new 35 mm theaters

IMAX Entertainment Complex of Branson will expand by 6,600 square feet to accommodate three new state-of-the-art 35 mm movie theaters. Paul Rasmussen, president of ITEC Attractions, which owns the IMAX in Branson, announced the $1.5 million expansion May 18.

He said the IMAX Theater has had "an overwhelmingly positive response" since the theater began showing 35 mm movies in December 1997. However, due to contractual obligations and restrictions with movie studios, "We've been struggling to get releases of the new 35 mm films in our complex," Rasmussen said. "Adding three modern 35 mm movie theaters will greatly enhance our ability to offer a variety of new releases, first-run films along with our IMAX films to area residents and tourists."

According to Rasmussen, the theaters will be equipped to offer meeting space for businesses, small seminars, conventions and organizations. Each theater will contain up to 167 seats in stadium-style configurations with digital surround sound systems and multimedia equipment.

Property for the new addition, adjoining the existing building to the south and east, will be leased from the adjacent Treasure Lake. It will include an additional 167 parking spaces plus alternate access to existing parking on the north side of the building. Rasmussen said work on the parking lot will begin with construction on the new theater complex in the fall to be completed by the spring of next year.

Michael Pitman, senior vice president of marketing for ITEC Attractions, said a company study determined that the 80,000 people in a 40-mile radius of Branson could support three more movie theaters, but not a megacomplex of 10 or 12 theaters like those located in larger cities. "We also don't have the space for parking," Pitman said. "We also can utilize the employees we have now."

He said the IMAX expansion project helps accommodate the changing demographics of Branson visitors. "We see more families coming to Branson. ... We're trying to make it more of a destination, especially on a rainy day," Pitman said.

Eighth Eureka Pizza opens on Central

Eureka Pizza has opened a new restaurant at 408 W. Central. The manager for the store is Erik Wilhelm. Eureka, founded in 1992 in Fayetteville, Ark., has restaurants in Joplin, Webb City and Neosho, along with five sites in northwest Arkansas. Eureka's menu includes pizza, bread sticks, cheese sticks and soft drinks. Carryout and delivery are available. There is no dining room. Hours are 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Sundays through Thursdays and 11 a.m.-midnight on Fridays and Saturdays.

$2.5 million tennis complex under way

Joplin tennis buffs can soon serve in style. A $2.5 million facility including tennis courts and a fitness club is under construction at 1227 N. Range Line. David and Debbie Humphreys are developers of the project.

Millennium Tennis and Fitness Club will feature four indoor tennis courts with a Plexi Cushion surface and six outdoor courts with a DecoTurf surface. The rubberized, acrylic surfaces provide cushioning. DecoTurf is used at the U.S. Open and other major tournaments. Plexi Cushion was used at the 1996 Olympics.

A two-story, 30,000-square-foot steel-and-glass clubhouse with a central skylight will house Cybex strength-training machines, stair climbers, Lifecycles, treadmills and other exercise equipment.

Ken Veney, a native of Sydney, Australia, will manage the club. He has worked at tennis clubs in Florida, Colorado and, most recently, Shangri-La Resort in Oklahoma. While there, he was named state tennis pro of the year. His job will include organizing tennis leagues. The membership club will have rates for families, singles and students.

Crossland Construction Co., of Columbus, Kan., is the builder. A September completion date has been set.

Golf & More opens on Seventh Street

Route 66 Family Golf & More has opened at 3500 W. Seventh St. Managers are Brad and Kevin Rhinehart. Route 66 offers two miniature golf courses, three baseball batting cages and a driving range. Group discounts are available by calling 206-8988.

Hunt opens Sunrise Media Group

Sunrise Media Group Inc., a multimedia design and marketing firm, has opened at 216 Main St. Doug Hunt is president. Sunrise Media's services include Web site creation and consultation, print and video production, three-dimensional animation, public relations and consulting.

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