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SBJ photo illustration by Wes Hamilton

Cushman’s Big Ideas: Developer behind Branson Adventures has been here before

He’s hoping it pans out better this round

Posted online

CP Branson LLC is the known entity putting forward the $446 million development plan for Branson Adventures.

And behind CP Branson is David Cushman. In addition to nearly a dozen active LLCs registered with the state, the Branson developer operates Cushman Properties LLC, a development firm created in 1998 with legs in the tourism, leisure and attractions industries.

Springfield Business Journal caught up with Cushman about his development work, past and future.

Who is Cushman?
Cushman is a native Branson businessman with roots in electrical contracting. He’s also had a hand in out-of state development consulting work in the attractions business, namely in Colorado and New York.

Branson Adventures is not Cushman’s first megaproject proposal involving public money in Branson.

In 2006, Cushman unsuccessfully sought tax increment financing for a proposed $600 million Pinnacle Falls attraction, located on the same acreage fronting Highway 76 and Highway 376 on Branson’s west side.

The European-hillside themed Pinnacle Falls called for a 300-suite hotel, indoor water park, specialty shops and restaurants, interactive fountains and a roughly $45 million aquarium, according to past Springfield Business Journal reporting. The filed TIF was the deal-breaker, he said.

If successful, Branson Adventures would be Cushman’s largest project developed.

Cushman told SBJ his latest proposal is dead in the water without TIF approval.

“The project doesn’t happen,” he said.

Branson Adventures calls for a 100,000-square-foot indoor waterpark and resort, cabins, campsites, mountain biking trails, rope courses, a “special attractions” area, retail, food and beverage offerings – including a microbrewery – and the park cornerstone: a customizable whitewater rafting course.

Developer to consultant
Cushman said his experience includes some residential development, and he’s also staked a claim in the Branson signage business through his Adventure Media Group LLC and The Cushman Co. LLC.

“I kind of look at life as a string of lessons, and if you pay attention, hopefully you get better as you go,” he said. “I started out, literally, kind of in the trenches. My father was an electrical contractor in the Branson market, so I grew up on the job site back in the ’70s.”

Cushman said he started bidding electrical work at 16 years old, later taking on horizontal construction as he continued in the industry through his early 20s.

“I’ve kind of been, since then, a bit of a serial entrepreneur,” he said.

With his primary interest in commercial development, by his mid-20s Cushman said he began investing in real estate, with some of the resulting properties now part of the Branson Adventures plan.

He said his largest out-of-pocket project to date is the Branson Financial Center, which he developed in 2004 at a project cost of about $8 million.

Out of state, Cushman said he’s advised on projects in Colorado.

In recent years, Cushman said he advised on a nearly $140 million attraction called the Indoor Waterpark Resort of the Rockies in Loveland, Colorado, as well as a more than $100 million 4-star hotel and conference center in Windsor, Colorado. The projects – attributes of a larger regional tourism plan dubbed “Go NoCo” that involves a nearly $70 million whitewater rafting course – remain in financial limbo and have yet to be built.

In New York state, Cushman said he consulted on a planned $300 million attraction. Confidentiality agreements, he said, prevent him from detailing the work.

Aside from the failed Pinnacle Falls proposal – which died after the city of Branson denied the TIF request – Branson Adventures is his largest personal development venture.

SBJ’s attempts to reach Branson aldermen from the 2006 era were unsuccessful. Lou Schaefer, who was mayor 1995-2007, died in 2008, and other members could not be reached by press time.

Branson’s city website notes between 2004 and 2007, some $580 million in projects were developed in the city, including the Branson Convention Center and hotel complex, Branson Landing and Branson Hills. The $420 million Branson Landing outdoor shopping center by HCW Development Co. was assisted by TIF monies from the state of Missouri, according to past SBJ reports.

The Cushman team
Cushman’s team has been tooling the Branson Adventures plan now for three years.

“It started getting a lot more serious about two years ago, and for the last year, it’s been nonstop,” Cushman said. “Pinnacle Falls was a good concept at a different time. It didn’t advance as far as this [Branson Adventures] project, and that’s OK.

“Branson does have a great history,” he added, “How does it want to position itself for the next generation of travelers?”

Bob Montgomery, a principal at Toronto-based AllPark Solutions, said he joined the Branson Adventures team as an attraction programs consultant.

Montgomery said he has held senior executive positions with the likes of Paramount Entertainment, The Lego Group toy company and Herschend Family Entertainment Corp., the owner-operator of Silver Dollar City. The positions each related to the attractions industry.

Montgomery said he and Cushman collaborated on Colorado’s Go NoCo plans as well as the confidential New York attraction. He previously lived in Branson for eight years, while working for Herschend Family Entertainment.

Bill Ryan – project manager, vice president and CEO of Architectural Design Consultants Inc. – said he has consulted on projects with Cushman for the past roughly four years on a national scale.

Based in Wisconsin Dells, Wisconsin, Ryan said he’s completed design work for some 80 percent of the Great Wolf Lodge indoor waterparks nationwide. Ryan said he also has developed designs for Kalahari Resorts and Conventions and Wilderness Hotel and Golf Resort, both similar resorts to Great Wolf Lodge.

Scott Shipley – owner of Lyons, Colorado-based S2O Design and Engineering – is heading up the design of Branson Adventures’ flagship whitewater rafting course. Shipley said he has competed in three Olympic games as a kayaker and holds four world titles in the sport.

Shipley said he and Cushman have been collaborating over the past five or six years on whitewater courses at undisclosed attractions, also kept secret by confidentiality agreements.

“The impacts of this are huge,” Shipley said of an estimated 600,000 annual visitors to the park and uniqueness of the whitewater course. “And I think David is doing this in the right way to really realize that.”


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