Ten years ago, voters in Irving agreed to finance a 16-acre, mixed-use entertainment complex off State Highway 114. It would have more than two dozen restaurants, an Alamo Drafthouse, and indoor and outdoor concert venues, along with retail and office space.
That complex, originally called the Irving Music Factory, was set to open Sept. 1 with a stand-up show by Dave Chappelle. With Live Nation and entertainment complex builder The Ark Group on board, it seemed destined for success.
However, as anyone who drove down Highway 114 this summer might have guessed, the Music Factory was nowhere near ready. On Aug. 25, a week before the scheduled opening, construction workers had to evacuate the building after a gas line was accidentally cut. Three days before the first show, Live Nation announced Irving Music Factory wouldn't be complete in time for the opening, resulting in shuffled dates, canceled shows and hordes of angry Brad Paisley fans.
A week later, the Irving Music Factory had a reorganized schedule and a new name: Toyota Music Factory. The Japanese automobile manufacturing giant, which opened its new headquarters in Plano this summer, bought the naming rights to the complex, continuing its gradual foray into North Texas.
“Toyota has a rich history of connecting with our guests through music, and the Toyota Music Factory gives us another platform to do that,” Ed Laukes, Toyota’s vice president of marketing, said in a press release. “We are excited that the Toyota Music Factory offers North Texans a state-of-the-art facility to enjoy live music, entertainment and dining options.”
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While music and Toyota may not seem like a match made in heaven, the sponsorship deal is a major vote of confidence for the venue, which has not exactly gotten off to a great start. Delays and gas leaks aside, early reviews indicate that the Toyota Music Factory may still not be completely ready for the onslaught of headliners set to descend upon DFW.
While the reviews are by no means disastrous — the music venue has three-and-a-half stars on Google and Yelp — the negative ones share many common points: a lack of incline to the floor making it difficult to see, parking bottlenecks, poor sound quality, long restroom lines and plumbing issues. During ZZ Top, the venue's inaugural show Sept. 9, plumbing issues literally stank up the joint.
Apart from a tacked-on sign telling drivers where to turn, there is little where the venue is — unless you count the dirt piles and construction cranes. The first of the complex’s 25 dining options did not open until last week, which meant that the ZZ Top faithful were surrounded by 16-plus acres of unopened bars and restaurants in various stages of construction.
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Many reviewers are perplexed as to why the venue promised to open in summer 2017 when the complex it belongs to is a year or more away from feeling and looking finished. The cancellation of the first week of shows made this issue more transparent.
"It definitely has a unfinished feeling to it, The planks they have hung in the lobby almost look like the construction head just told workers to get the extra lumber out of the way and tack it to the walls, This building is not complete IMO for it to be a quality venue," David Adams wrote on Google, adding that he had a good experience with sound and sight lines.
Of course, review websites attract complaints, and many people others reported positive experiences with sound, lines and other aspects of the venue's design that contradicted the bad. Toyota Music Factory, which has since hosted Sammy Hagar and Steve Winwood, also received positive remarks for its friendly staff, spacious seats and TV displays. And many of the negative reviews expressed that it has the potential to be a great venue but needs work.
It hasn’t been a fairy-tale opening for the Music Factory, but Toyota seems to think that the complex can live up to its billing as “Irving’s Premier Dining and Entertainment Venue.” Meanwhile, the Irving taxpayers probably just hope it can live up to the $200 million price tag. And that they won't feel embarrassed when Bill and Hillary Clinton grace its stage Nov. 17.