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February 2, 2010 | last updated December 1, 2011 4:16 am
Portlandbiz

New family activity center to open

When Lenny Holmes decided to build a second indoor family entertainment complex six months ago, he received one very important mandate from his potential customers -- no video arcade machines.

Much to their delight, they won't find any such machines at the All Play Family Entertainment Center set to open this Saturday in Westbrook. Instead, families will find a Bounce Zone similar to the one at Holmes' Southern Maine Sportszone in Saco, a miniature golf course, zip lines, an air extreme jumper and a challenge course, Holmes says. It will also have a toddler area.

"We want it to challenge the mind and body," says Holmes, a Saco resident who has owned the Southern Maine Sportszone for two years.

Holmes says he is leasing a 17,000-square-foot building that was once home to the former Hoboken Floors. The building was perfect, he says, because it had a more than 22-foot high ceiling needed for those activities. The building, located on 2 Karen Drive, had been vacant for 16 months. Holmes says he will employ four full-time people and up to 12 part-time people.

Holmes says he took advantage of a favorable lease rate to create the new family entertainment center. Up to 35,000 people visited the Saco facility's basketball courts, indoor soccer field and bounce zone in 2009, generating about $1.4 million in gross revenue, he says.

The company invested $150,000 to renovate the Westbrook building and to purchase the equipment, he says. The new facility will include a concessions area that will sell pizza, hot dogs, ice cream, beverages and food items, and also host birthday parties. The challenge course will have several activities to allow parents and their kids to compete and earn scores based on their respective age levels, Holmes says. Some of the activities include: a rope swing, a balance walk, a blind man's walk, ring toss, bowling pin challenge and a memory challenge.

Holmes says he expects to have his certificate of occupancy by Thursday.

"It's good to see," says Keith Luke, director of the Westbrook Economic and Community Development office, about the renovation and reuse of a previously abandoned building.

He believes the new family entertainment facility will do well given its close proximity to Cinemagic Stadium 16 movie theater.

Luke says lease rates in the Greater Portland area are the lowest they've been in a decade, creating opportunities for businesses that can take advantage of them. The city's overall 3% vacancy rate for commercial/retail property is also much lower than the nearly 11% vacancy rate in the rest of the greater Portland region, he said.

"We're not overbuilt. We've matched availability to opportunity," Luke says.

Six months ago, Holmes conducted marketing surveys to find out what type of indoor family entertainment center would work best in the greater Portland region. Overwhelmingly, Holmes says, families wanted hands-on physical activities so they could enjoy healthier fun with their children during the long Maine winters. Holmes says he couldn't find anyone else who will offer families this type of entertainment center in Maine.

"If you can keep affordability, which we have, you will have a market," Holmes says. "We're quite comfortable that if things go as planned, we'll have a healthy customer base."

Admission for the All Play Family Entertainment Center will be $8 per person on Monday to Friday until 3 p.m. and $10 per person on Saturday and Sunday. Separate fees will be charged for miniature golf, the zip lines and the air extreme jumper, Holmes says.

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