`Knights' to accompany meals when new mall tenant opens

Arundel Mills to get jousting, medieval-style banquets

October 23, 2002|By Lorraine Mirabella | Lorraine Mirabella,SUN STAFF

Arundel Mills is about to become the first U.S. mall where shoppers can load up on shoes, towels and saute pans by day, then settle down to an 11th-century banquet and jousting match.

At Medieval Times Dinner & Tournament, one of the last anchors opening at the huge Hanover mall, guests will be addressed as "My Lord" or "My Lady," "knights" on horseback will wield swords, and Andalusian stallions will prance in choreographed routines.

Construction will begin this week on the 1,000-seat, medieval-themed restaurant, where knights will joust in tournaments during nightly two-hour performances.

It will be the first Medieval Times restaurant in a shopping mall, said Eric Chiusolo, a senior vice president and chief financial officer of Medieval Times Entertainment Inc., based in Buena Park, Calif., which operates seven other U.S. locations. The privately held company opened its first site near Disney World in 1983. It has annual sales of $85 million.

A 60,000-square-foot Medieval Times is to open in June at the south end of Arundel Mills between Off Broadway Shoes and Old Navy. It will look like a castle from the exterior and include a stable of 19 show horses.

Each Medieval Times restaurant employs about 200, including horse trainers, stable crew, riders and other performers, and waiters to serve the four-course roasted chicken and spare ribs meal during the show.

The three-act show features horses performing dancing routines, knights competing in ring piercing, javelin throwing and flag tossing, and a jousting tournament. Admission is $45.95 for adults.

"When guests enter the castle, we want them to feel like they're taken back 1,000 years in time," said Celeste Clark, a spokeswoman for Medieval Times.

The chain had been looking for a site in the Baltimore-Washington region since 1997, Chiusolo said. The mall, developed by Arlington, Va.-based Mills Corp., fits the bill, blending a heavy dose of entertainment with shopping, and sitting midway between Baltimore and Washington in a heavily populated area visited by many tourists.

Other tenants include a Bass Pro Outdoor World, an Egyptian-themed movie megaplex, the high-energy Hibachi Grill, where chefs toss rice and shrimp into diners' mouths, and Jillian's, an entertainment complex with restaurants, bowling, billiards and a virtual-reality arcade. Medieval Times will be the mall's 16th of 17 planned anchors.

"Medieval Times is another one of the entertainment-oriented elements that is typical of Mills projects," said David Fick, a managing director of Legg Mason Wood Walker Inc. in Baltimore who follows the Mills Corp. "The evolution of the anchor lineup there is similar to what we've seen elsewhere" at Mills malls, "having quality tenants and continually evolving the mix to the next level."

The new anchor will enhance the mall, he said, though patrons will probably come just for the show rather than spend additional time shopping.

But Mills executives expect shoppers to travel longer distances for the restaurant, to stay longer and to spend more, said Gene Condon, a vice president and general manager of Arundel Mills.

Medieval Times started as a chicken barbecue and horse show for tourists in Majorca, Spain, in the mid-1970s. Medieval Times Chairman Pedro de Montaner, whose family started the Spanish shows for a tour operator business, exported the idea to Florida in 1983. Subsequent restaurants opened in Buena Park; Lyndhurst, N.J.; Schaumburg, Ill.; Dallas; Toronto; and Myrtle Beach, S.C. About 2.5 million people visited the restaurants last year.

Medieval Times breeds its rare Andalusians at a Texas ranch, where more than 200 horses live.

The company often recruits nonskilled riders to portray its knights, then offers intensive training for six months in Spanish-style riding, jousting and use of replicas of weapons from the Middle Ages.

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