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CANNONSBURG, Ky. — Within three weeks of taking possession of the former KYOVA Tri-State Mall property along U.S. 60 in Cannonsburg near Ashland, Camp Landing Entertainment District opened a newly remodeled cinema.

“We wanted to be very aggressive and wanted to make a statement with this $200,000 remodel for the cinema,” said Jason Camp, president and CEO of Camp Landing Entertainment District. “We wanted to show that we are doing exactly what we said we were going to do.”

Camp and fellow co-owners, along with Boyd County Fiscal Court, are transforming 500,000 square feet of indoor space that was home to a mall into an entertainment complex that will also have a new hotel and convention center.

Camp is using his sports background to create something you usually see in larger cities.

“I was in sports for 17 years,” he said. “I worked in Major League Baseball, the NFL and the NHL. I have also run tournaments and concerts.”

Camp said after he retired from the sports side of his business career, he opened his own restaurant and an event firm.

“I started producing community events in Southwest Florida,” he said. “I am originally from Miami, Florida, and was living in Naples for 13 years before I moved to the Ashland area with my family.”

Camp said he got a call to come to look at opening an establishment to feed construction workers for the Braidy Industries’ proposed mill project at the EastPark Industrial Center in Ashland.

“My wife, kids and I just fell in love with the community,” he said. “We made the move, but the Braidy project never happened, so we opened our Smokin’ J’s restaurant and started looking for other opportunities.”

Camp said he got the idea to build a sports complex about two years ago.

“I thought there was really a lack of sports facilities here for the community, and even now it’s hard to get basketball or volleyball space and places for our kids to practice and play,” he said. “Since that was my initial background I wanted to do something like I have seen in larger cities right here in the Ashland area. I looked for two years to find the right place.”

Camp said Boyd County officials kept bringing up the old KYOVA Mall site.

“I told them I didn’t want to buy a dead mall,” he said. “But, one morning I woke up and thought maybe this is a good fit. It’s located near Interstate 64 and in a high traffic area and has plenty of space.”

Camp Landing Entertainment District is repurposing an old mall into something families from across the region can enjoy, as well as attracting lots of out of town visitors to the area, Camp said.

“We are repurposing it into something totally different,” he said. “It will be a true entertainment district with a movie theater, bars and restaurants, live entertainment and music, a sports complex and other family fun places and activities.”

The newly renovated cinema is open, as well as an art walk showcasing local talent. Also, Malibu Jack’s recently opened in what used to be Elder-Beerman and is continuing to build out more in the mall area with a new bowling alley, interactive go-cart track, mini golf course, carnival style rides, arcade games, laser tag, cabaña spaces for parties and more.

“People are so excited to have something like this locally,” said Mark Ogden, who is on the expansion team with Malibu Jack’s. “Malibu Jack’s is geared toward family entertainment and family fun together. If you look around you see kids of all ages having fun with their moms and dads. We have created an environment for families to feel safe and have a great time.”

Ogden said a bounce area is not complete and there are still other fun things coming within the next few weeks.

“The bowling alley will also be completed soon,” he said.

Missy Bowen of Wayne brought her husband and two young sons check out the new Malibu Jack’s last Tuesday.

“This place is amazing,” Bowen said. “There is really nothing like this anywhere around this region. We went to the one in Lexington, but this one appears even bigger. We are excited to have this so close to home.”

Camp said Smokin J’s Rib & Brewhouse is a barbecue and ribeye restaurant that will relocate inside the restaurant space that was previously Callihan’s. He is hoping it will be open by February.

“We have experienced such growth at our location in Boyd County that it just makes sense to move into a much larger space to accommodate that growth,” Camp said. “We will be bringing the same great taste that our customers expect but adding some new flavors as well. We believe this is going to be a great marriage here at Camp Landing, giving our patrons the option of seeing a movie before or after dinner and all the other attractions here at the entertainment district. We couldn’t be happier to have Malibu Jack’s as our new neighbor.”

Camp said the current Smokin’ J’s location will be open every day until the week of relocation.

Also, Backyard Pizza & Raw Bar, which has a location in downtown Huntington, announced it will build a second location at Camp Landing in the former RJ Kahunas’ space. Owners Drew and Megan Hetzer said they are thrilled about the expansion.

“The space is a perfect spot for Backyard,” Drew Hetzer said. “We have a large customer base from this area that comes to eat at our Huntington location.”

“This will bring us closer to them and give us patio space for outside dining,” Megan Hetzer said.

Drew Hetzer said they will give the space a major overhaul and remodel that he says lives up the standard set by his other establishments.

“You can expect the wood-fired gourmet pizzas to be hitting tables sometime in the early spring,” he said.

Visitors to Camp Landing will also notice a newly paved parking lot and other improvements.

Meanwhile, Boyd County is moving forward with plans of a convention center and farmers market. It will be housed in what was previously a department store.

“It’ll be around 80,000 square feet. We’re currently working on finalizing the floor plan for the facility itself. We’re gonna start work here in the next couple weeks painting and then the bid will be out and construction will start within the first quarter of 2022,” said Eric Chaney, Boyd County judge executive, “There’ll be a hotel that’s on the property attached to the convention center and a 120,000-square foot sports complex attached to the backside. So this is really going to create an entirely new environment for Boyd County.”

Officials say the Camp Landing Entertainment District is not only providing hundreds of jobs, but it will also have a big impact on the region’s economy.

“Every visitor is going to be between $100 and $200 impact that comes to Camp Landing,” Camp said. “This place is going to have a huge economic impact in this region.”

Camp added that his team has had current conversations with around 20 new potential tenants in just the last month and will be making another major announcement soon.

“I can’t announce it yet, but I can promise it’s going to be big and exciting,” he said.

Camp stressed that Camp Landing Entertainment District is not a mall.

“We are not in the mall business,” Camp said. “We are not in competition with the Ashland mall or the Huntington Mall. You will never find a Gap here. The only retail you will find here will be certain niche businesses or local specialty businesses that are different and fit in our entertainment district concept. People are coming here for date night or spending good family time. We are happy with our first steps here in the first five months and are excited to see what happens in the next couple of years.”

For now, Smokin J’s and Backyard Pizza join Malibu Jack’s, The Cinema at Camp Landing, Boyd County Convention Center, Sports Plex, Farmer’s Market and several other attractions coming to the Camp Landing Entertainment District, Camp added.

For more information about Camp Landing Entertainment District, visit online at camplanding.com. For more information about Malibu Jack’s visit malibujacks.net.

Fred has been in the newspaper industry for 30+ years. He continues to be excited to bring readers news that only comes thru local journalism. “Being able to share the passion felt by entrepreneurs in our community with readers is exciting,” he said.

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