Beginning this June, the thundering hoofs of horses are expected to resound again in the Buena Park building that once housed the Kingdom of Dancing Stallions, which ceased operations almost two years ago.
But the prancing dressage of the former attraction's Andalusian horses will be replaced by a trip into 11th-Century France and Spain, complete with jousting knights charging at high speeds with lances brandished.
Trip Bellows, marketing and sales director of Medieval Times, confirmed that the Florida-based firm will spend up to $6 million to buy the Beach Boulevard structure and convert it into an attraction at which patrons will be served dinner and drinks by an army of "servants and wenches" while cheering for specially trained stunt men performing in the colors and regalia of knighthood. Spectators will be encouraged to root for the knight wearing colors that match the section in which they are seated.
Bellows said the concept had proven popular because it encourages the audience to participate in the show. "It's like the Super Bowl of knighthood, so to speak," he said.
Tentative Opening in June
Bellows said the two-hour show will also feature sword fights, javelin throwing and equestrian events. The cost of admission will be $23 for adults and $15.30 for children. He said Medieval Times has set a tentative opening date for early June.
Bellows said the location at 7662 Beach Blvd. was picked because it is "perfect for our needs." He noted that the location is convenient to the Santa Ana, Riverside and Garden Grove freeways, and only "a stone's throw from Knott's Berry Farm and the Movieland Wax Museum."
Wesley Taylor, a Newport Beach realtor, said the purchase is in escrow and will be completed within the next few weeks.
Medieval Times is the brainchild of a Spanish family that built the first such facility on the resort island of Majorca, Bellows said. Because that facility and a second one in Spain were successful, he said, the owners decided to expand operations overseas to Florida, opening a show there in Kissimmee in early 1984. He expects the Florida location to draw more than 300,000 visitors in 1986.
Andres Gelabert, who manages the Florida attraction, also will manage the Buena Park show, dividing his time between the two cities.
When Ray and Edith Williams, an Australian couple, first bought the site and converted it into the Kingdom of Dancing Stallions in 1978, they brought from Down Under a concept that had been successful in their native land. They turned the building into a high-class equestrian arena with crystal chandeliers and plush furniture.
Filed for Bankruptcy
But the attraction soon lost money as attendance plummeted and debts increased. In late 1982, Ray Williams found that he had Alzheimer's disease, a progressive, debilitating brain disorder. In February, 1983, he committed suicide. Shortly afterward, his wife closed the arena and filed for bankruptcy.
Taylor said the building was acquired through foreclosure proceedings by Australian and New Zealand Banking Group Ltd., which had provided financing for the Williamses. He said the bank is also financing the acquisitions by Medieval Times.
Officials agree that the Kingdom of Dancing Stallions did not do well for many reasons, including the Williamses' lack of market knowledge of the area and lack of publicity. "A lot of people even locally drove by and didn't even know what it was," said Patsy Marshall, Buena Park Chamber of Commerce president.
Another problem the attraction had was that people would attend once and never return, as opposed to such amusement parks as Knott's Berry Farm that have a high number of repeat visitors.
But Bellows believes that Medieval Times will not have that problem. He thinks the attraction will be fun for all ages and types of people. "In Florida, it's not uncommon to see three generations of a family coming in to see the show," he said.