Ye olde anniversary
Medieval Times celebrates first year at Discover Mills

LAWRENCEVILLE - The show changes little - there's some smoke, a bit of sword fighting and a big jousting match at the end.

The meal - a roasted chicken, a spare rib and potatoes all eaten without utensils - is still the same.

And the price - $47.95 for adults and $35.95 for children 12 and under - hasn't risen or dropped since the castle opened.

So as Medieval Times celebrates its one-year anniversary today, the question can be raised: how much business can it expect in its second year? Will people really want to come back to the Lawrenceville castle after they've already been once?

"We wondered, 'If people do it once, are they going to want to go back again and again?'" said Lisa Anders, spokeswoman for the Gwinnett Convention and Visitors Bureau. "That was one of our biggest questions, but (Medieval Times) said their data shows people are going more than once. It's like the aquarium. Local people take different groups of friends and family who come into town. That's exactly what you want."

Danielle Wiegand, spokeswoman for the Georgia castle, said having live animals and changing the winner from performance to performance also helps bring people back.

"It surprised me that people come back, but we have so many people who return because there's so many different aspects of the show," Wiegand said.

The Georgia castle, which is the ninth and newest North American Medieval Times Dinner and Tournament Attraction, has drawn roughly 225,000 visitors in its first year, Wiegand said.

That surpasses the 200,000 visitors the company projected for the year.

Discover Mills, where Medieval Times is located, saw the number of visitors at the mall increase 5 percent with its addition.

"It has been great for Discover Mills," said Yvonne Jacobs, director of marketing for Discover Mills. "It's increased overall foot traffic at about what we expected."

It's also been a great addition for the Gwinnett Convention and Visitor's Bureau, which tries to bring conferences and groups to the area. Gwinnett's convention center is located right down Sugarloaf Parkway from Discover Mills.

"When you have a hotel near the convention center that's good, but it's only one part," she said. "You need restaurants, shopping and something to do at night, and that was a nightlife component we needed. We still need more, but it's been a great help."

Medieval Times has drawn guests from as far away as South America, Wiegand said, and roughly one-third of Medieval Times guests have come from Gwinnett in the first year.

Wiegand said she believes much of that is because of the castle's location along the interstate.

"We're almost like a gateway for travel," Wiegand said. "Everyone's going through Georgia to get to Florida."

Still, Medieval Times believes even more success will come with as local residents hear its praises.

"I expect it to grow," Wiegand said. "As the word gets out around Atlanta, I'm almost certain the attendance will grow in the second year."

SideBar: By the numbers

Here's a look at the Medieval Times first year of business in Gwinnett:

225,000: Number of guests

225,000: Spare ribs

102,000: Chickens

13,700: Shattered lances

2,960: Jousts

936: Hours of practice

370: Total shows