Construction begins on Lewisville's Coyote Drive-In theater.(Photo by Adam Schrader)

Anticipation for Coyote Drive-In grows, company postpones opening for rain

News Stories Archive

Published in The Lewisville Texan Journal on June 4, 2016

Drive-in theaters have been absent from the Denton County community since The Rancho in Denton closed in the 1980s. There hasn’t been a theater like it in Lewisville since one closed off Business 121 in the 1970s.

So when Fort Worth-based Coyote Drive-In announced plans to open Lewisville location, the community couldn’t get enough of the news. It continues to be one of the most talked about local stories and residents frequently ask The Lewisville Texan Journal for updates.

The opening, which was once planned for late last year, will be postponed again after a series of delays in the planning stages when the theater realized it had space to add a sixth screen, and rain.

Coyote had then planned for a July 1 opening but now won’t be open until early fall, said Glen Soloman, a partner in Coyote Drive-In. No changes have been made to the planned design since Lewisville approved $306,500 of incentives in February; and work was moving on schedule since the company broke ground in January, before recent rains.

“Nobody is more sorry about the delay than we are,” Soloman said. “But when the long-anticipated location finally opens, it will be worth the wait.”

Soloman said significant progress will be seen in the next coming weeks as the weather forecast shifts.

Lewisville resident Todd Simpson, 36, said he loved going to theaters like it when he was younger.

“I absolutely would go and I understand it’s very difficult to build things when we’re getting the type of rain we’ve been getting,” he said.

Simpson said that next summer, when Coyote Drive-In is open, Texans won’t have to worry about the summer heat like they did.

“When we think of drive-ins, we think of the old days of having to roll down the windows,” he said. Coyote Drive-In uses special FM radio frequencies to which guests tune their car’s radio, so “there is never going to be an issue with the heat,” he said.

Lewisville resident Sallie Burris, 62, said that when she was dating in high school, she used to catch films at the Rebel Twin Drive-In off Belt Line in Carrollton. By the time the previous Lewisville theater opened, she was a young married woman with a baby daughter.

“We would load our Volkswagen bus with bottles, diapers and baby food and go to the movies,” she said. “Now I want my grandchildren to experience the drive-in movie. I am sure they’ve come a long way since then.”

Flower Mound resident Nicole Webb, 23, who is currently in school in Washington D.C., said she’s never been to a drive-in theater.

“Me and my friends in high school always wanted to. We never got around to it because all the ones open then were too far away,” she said. “I’d love to go when I’m in town next.”

Some residents had suggestions for Coyote before they open.

“We honestly don’t go to movies, but if there were a decent family film we would consider it,” Lewisville resident Kari Simpkins, 53. “I don’t care for any sort of violence or foul language. I would love to see some of the recent Christian movies shown there.”

Coyote opened its second location in Birmingham, Alabama, at the start of May. Until the new cinema opens in Lewisville, residents looking to catch flicks from the comfort of their car can head to the company’s original Panther Island location in Fort Worth.

Police designate safer space for trades

News Stories Archive

Published in The Dallas Morning News and The Denton Record-Chronicle on May 23, 2015

The Flower Mound Police Department recently put up two signs marking two adjacent spaces in its parking lot. Police hope the signs, which read “online exchange zone,” will encourage smarter shopping with online classified sites such as Craigslist.

Wess Griffin, a Flower Mound police spokesman, said the signs are precautionary measures. So far, the town has been fortunate to avoid incidents in which an unwary buyer or seller gets ambushed when meeting someone with criminal intent.

“I can’t think of a single instance in Flower Mound where online transactions had gone wrong,” he said.

Craigslist transactions go flawlessly 99 percent of the time. It’s just one nice person trying to sell an object, and one nice person buying an object, Griffin said.

“If you’re someone who’s thinking about doing harm to someone else, hopefully you’ll think twice before trying to attempt that at the police department,” he said. “But I’m not going to say nobody would be brazen enough to try something in front of the police station.”

In February, Denton police Officer Orlando Hinojosa proposed the idea for online safe zones for Denton residents — also for precautionary measures. The safe zone in Denton is also at the police station.

“It wasn’t because we were having issues. Anybody will feel safe doing a transaction at the police department,” Hinojosa said. “If they don’t want to make the exchange at the station, I wouldn’t make a deal with that person.”

Online transaction zones have become popular because of several high-profile cases in which a buyer or seller went to meet someone and ended up getting robbed or killed.

A Dallas County state district judge recently declared a second mistrial in the capital murder case of Christopher Howard Beachum, according to a Dallas Morning News report. Beachum was accused of killing Gerald Canepa, 68, a man he met through Craigslist.

A post on the Richardson Police Department’s Facebook page mentions two robberies in which Craigslist sellers lured potential buyers to two homes in Richardson and robbed them at gunpoint. Similar crimes have occurred across the country, such as the case of Philip Haynes Markoff, the so-called “Craigslist Killer,” who is accused of one murder and two aggravated robberies in Boston.

Dan Rochelle, a captain with the Lewisville Police Department, said his station doesn’t have any designated safety zones. But residents are always welcome to do their exchanges at the station, he said.

“We’ve had plenty of reports filed that they didn’t get the merchandise they paid for,” he said. “But I don’t know of any that are violent in nature.”

The Flower Mound zones have received positive feedback on social media.

Greg Decker, a Flower Mound resident, said safe zones represent an improvement in services.

“I have done quite a few Craigslist deals, and I would never go to [someone’s house] or ask the other party to my house,” he said. “I used a public lot near a restaurant I patronized where I knew employees. I parked in sight, told my buddies what I was doing and to watch, and also had my own defense if needed.”

Brenda Stiles Johnson, another Facebook user, wrote the safe zones are also a great place for a divorced parent to drop off children with the other parent. Johnson said her divorced daughter is more comfortable now when she drops off or picks up her child.

“My daughter loves that Flower Mound has a place,” she said. “She has been meeting her ex in front of Denton PD, but both of them are in our town a lot as both work here.”

Griffin said his department hadn’t envisioned that the safe zones could be used by divorced parents.

“For years and years, our police department has been used for custody exchanges, and we encourage people to do that too,” he said. “It’s always good if there’s any ill will there.”

Griffin said the benefits of buying or selling items at the police department is that the station is staffed 24 hours a day, every day of the year.

Additionally, the spots were chosen to be close to security cameras as possible, which would make it easier to identify suspects and vehicles.

Officers had not considered the possibility that some may use the safety zone for nefarious operations — essentially hiding in plain sight, Griffin said. For example, some drug dealers could think that conducting business in front of the station may prevent them from getting shot by potential buyers.

“I’d hope the safety zones would act as a deterrent, but you never know,” Griffin said. “We caught a guy stealing a bottle of hand sanitizer from our lobby on camera.

“If my dealer wants to meet me in the police department parking lot, I’m probably not going to show on that one. But you never know. Stranger things have happened.”

ADAM SCHRADER can be reached at 940-566-6882 and via Twitter at @schrader_adam.

Stump is named Best in Show at the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show. (Photo by Kjunstorm, used under Creative Commons)

Cross Roads resident to again judge Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show

News Stories Archive

Published in the Dallas Morning News and the Denton Record-Chronicle on Feb. 1, 2015

Once again, dog lovers from across the world and celebrities from the stages of Broadway and the sets of Hollywood flood New York City’s Madison Square Garden for two days and nights in February for the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show.

The show offers more than 3,000 dogs in the competition of a lifetime. They know when they’re being shown and respond to the applause.

But it’s not just the spectators and dogs who have a good time. Cross Roads resident Norm Kenney will judge 16 breeds at the 139th annual Westminster Kennel Club All Breed Dog Show on Feb. 16-17. This will be his seventh time judging at the Westminster show.

Kenney, who has been judging since 1978, has judged thousands of dog shows. His first time judging Westminster was in the early 2000s, and most recently in 2013. But his favorite experience in the past 37 years was judging the working group for the Westminster show in 2008, he said.

“I enjoy going across the country and the world actually, seeing the different dogs and the breeds. But Westminster is really the Super Bowl of dog shows,” he said. “It’s the best of the best.”

Tom Bradley, chairman of the Westminster Dog Show, said Kenney was picked to judge again this year because his base knowledge of the breeds. Kenney is approved to judge six of the seven groups of dogs found in the country and is working on getting approval for the last group, which in his case is hounds.

“This is no small feat and it takes someone with a strong dedication to the sport to be approved to judge all of the breeds that are recognized by the AKC,” Bradley said. “There are less than a dozen people in the U.S. who are actively judging who can judge all of the breeds. On top of that, he is well respected and a gentleman, which helps in finding him a place on our panel.”

The dog show extravaganza in Madison Square is the second oldest sporting event in the country, second only to the Kentucky Derby. In the 1870s, a group of men gathered in the bar of their favorite hotel to boast about their shooting accomplishments and their dogs’ abilities in the field. One night in 1877, they decided to put on a dog show — that they named after the hotel.

The organization and its show predate the founding of the governing body of the sport, the American Kennel Club, which was established in 1884.

Kenney will judge some of the more than 3,000 dogs competing in the all-breed dog show and the club’s second annual Masters Agility Championship at Westminster.

For any American Kennel Club dog show, including the Westminster show, a selection committee looks at a registry of roughly 3,000 judges. They send invitations to a few of those judges for the show. Judges are chosen to select winners at three different levels of competition, the breed, group and best in show.

In what is considered the first round of the dog show, Kenney and his fellow breed judges will select the best of each of the 192 eligible. This level of the competition is not televised. The winners of the breed classes, labeled “best of breed,” go to the group level — which are considered the finals, or playoffs so to speak, and televised. There, judges select the best of each of seven groups: sporting, hound, working, chariot, toy, non-sporting and herding groups. Each group winner competes for the top award, “Best in Show.”

In the working group, Kenney will judge Anatolian shepherds, German pinschers and Neapolitan mastiffs. In the toy group, he will judge miniature pinschers, Shih Tzus, silky terriers, toy fox terriers and Yorkshire terriers. In the non-sporting group, he will judge American Eskimo dogs, Tibetan terriers and Xoloitzcuintli breeds.

In the sporting group, Kenney will judge Brittanys, Spinones Italiano, Vizslas and Wirehaired Pointing Griffons breeds. This year, the dog show will add two breeds to its competition lineup: the Wirehaired Vizsla in the sporting group and the Coton de Tulear in the non-sporting group. Kenney will also have the honor of judging the Wirehaired Vizsla this year.

None of the breeds he will be judging is a breed he currently owns. But there is no extra preparation for judging at Westminster, he said.

In the coming weeks before the show, Kenney said he will just have to refamiliarize himself with the written breed standards of the breeds he will be judging.

“When a judge is invited to judge, usually a year or so in advance, you usually know at that time which breeds you are being invited to judge,” he said. “So now I’m really just getting the tuxedo out for the evening festivities.”

Kenney, originally from Boston, started breeding and showing Doberman pinschers in 1967. Over the past 48 years, he has bred a variety of dogs. He has judged all over Texas since moving to Cross Roads two and a half years ago.

“There is a great dog-loving community in Texas, from dog show handlers, breeders and judges,” he said. “The only thing I regret is that I didn’t move here 30 years ago.”

Kenney’s first love is for dogs and his second is for horses, which is one of the many reasons why he lives in Texas, he said. Cross Roads is in the middle of reigning horse country. Kenney, who retired from development and construction, has bred horses for the past 10 years. It has become his primary business. In between judging dog shows, he raises baby quarter horses with his girlfriend, Rhonda Nickels, and sells them at yearly sales. Right now, he is breeding foals and waiting for a bunch of them to be born.

Kenney and Nickels are also involved with Doberman and boxer rescue — volunteering to any dogs that need to be placed a helping them find new homes.

“The dog world is interconnected — whether it is pure bred or mixed breeds, we’re all dog lovers and want the best of the animals,” he said. “And it all starts with the American Kennel Club.”

The evening finals are televised live from 7 to 10 p.m. on CNBC, Feb. 16 and on USA Network on Feb. 17.

“I’m very proud and excited to go with Norm to watch his judging at Westminster Kennel Club,” Nickels said. “I am looking forward to seeing the best of the best in the dog show world.”

ADAM SCHRADER can be reached at 214-773-8188 and via Twitter at @schrader_adam.

(Photo courtesy Lewisville Helping its Heroes)

Group that ‘helps heroes’ raising funds to become nonprofit

News Stories Archive

Published in the Dallas Morning News and Denton Record Chronicle on Nov. 7, 2014

Organizers of a group called Lewisville Helping Its Heroes are working to raise funds to incorporate as a registered nonprofit, tax-exempt group.

Formed in July, Lewisville Helping Its Heroes focuses on assisting service members, military veterans, first responders, educators and their families.

Angela Bennett-Engele, a longtime resident of Lewisville, is the group’s president. The group relies on volunteers from the community to accomplish its mission.

“It is unfortunate that patriotism has fallen to a record low, [but] through endeavors like this, we can turn things around,” she said. “It takes reaching one person to make a difference.”

The group provides much-needed services ranging from home repairs to purchasing clothing or food. So far, they have helped a single family and plan to help one family each year.

“We are a new group,” she said. “But we have grown and can’t thank the community enough for their support.”

Her father, Air Force Capt. Steven L. Bennett, died in the Vietnam War and was awarded the Medal of Honor posthumously. She has served with other veterans support organizations and as volunteer coordinator for the Fort Worth Veterans Museum.

“As the daughter of a Medal of Honor recipient, it is an honor to assist, and show my appreciation to anyone who has served their community or country,” she said. “Too often we overlook or take for granted the level of dedication these brave people have.”

Erich and Emilee Klein, owners of Badgers BBQ, came across the group on Facebook as they were scheduling the restaurant’s grand opening. Badgers focuses on serving service members, and the owners took interest in the group, Erich Klein said.

“Michelle — one of the officers of the organization — came in, sat down and talked to us about how we can have a mutually beneficial relationship,” Klein said.

Lewisville Helping Its Heroes treasurer Joey Hernandez is a carpenter. He helped with the restaurant renovations. In return, the restaurant owners let Heroes use their banquet space to pass out fliers and information about the organization during the grand opening Oct. 4.

“They [Helping Our Heroes] have been wonderful and believe in the same things we believe in,” Klein said.

The grand opening included a raffle, with proceeds going to the Heroes group to help the family of an area Marine. The group has provided birthday gifts for the Marine’s son, employment assistance and home remodeling work.

On Oct. 18, the organization held a fix-up party to get all the home repairs done in one day. A new volunteer, who worked to get the walls of the master bathroom retextured, was able to donate ceramic tile for the bathrooms.

“We appreciated that because we are only currently on a ‘peel and stick’ budget,” Bennett-Engele said. “It is so nice for our members to pull together to offer even better than what we can afford.”

Group members returned Oct. 25 to finish landscaping, paint, put down tile in two bathrooms and hang ceiling fans and lights.

“They did wonderful work,” Bennett-Engele said. “We really appreciate all of their hard work.”

The group later hosted a booth selling glow sticks at the annual Lewisville Spooktacular Trails and Glow Run Extravaganza, handed out candy and fliers and staffed a fishing game for children.

“Everyone was exhausted and just ready to get home and put their feet up. It was a busy, warm, loud, crazy, stressful day,” Bennett-Engele said. “But, in the end, we did what we set out to do and that was help our military family, and spend time connecting with the community.”

On Nov. 1, group members spent the day at an antique car show after event sponsors invited them to participate.

“What an honor for us,” she said. “We are so excited that people are taking notice of us and what we are doing for the community.”

Lewisville/Flower Mound editor Adam Schrader can be reached at 214-773-8188 and on Twitter at @schrader_adam.

Fracking the Bakken Formation in North Dakota (Photo by Joshua Doubek used under Creative Commons)

Smitherman asks city officials not to approve ban on fracking in letter

News Stories Archive

Published in the Denton Record-Chronicle on July 11, 2014

Barry T. Smitherman, chairman of the Texas Railroad Commission, has asked Denton city officials not to approve a ban on hydraulic fracturing within city limits.

Denton City Manager George Campbell, Mayor Chris Watts and members of the council all received Smitherman’s letter Friday. He also asked in the letter that his comments be read at a public hearing on the fracking ban proposal during Tuesday night’s City Council meeting.

Under the city charter, the council must hold a public hearing on an initiative petition before taking a vote on the matter. A group of Denton residents organized the initiative in the spring, delivering the signatures of nearly 2,000 registered voters supporting the ban. If the council passes the ban Tuesday, Denton would be the first city in Texas to ban fracking inside its city limits.

Denton sits on the state’s largest onshore natural gas field, the Barnett Shale, and to access this natural gas, companies use fracking.

“Natural gas production in America has also soared because of hydraulic fracturing,” Smitherman wrote.

The Texas Railroad Commission regulates oil and gas drilling, and Smitherman’s letter stressed the importance for drilling in Denton.

According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, Texas was the leading crude oil-producing state in the nation in 2013 and exceeded production levels from federal offshore areas. Texas accounted for about 29 percent of U.S. marketed natural gas production in 2013, making it the leading natural gas producer among the states.

Smitherman wrote that a ban on fracking is “a ban on oil and gas drilling, one of the key pillars of our Texas economy.”

Staff writer Peggy Heinkel-Wolfe contributed to this report.