Work begins on mini-golf, skate center


Published: Friday, January 17, 2003 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, January 16, 2003 at 10:43 p.m.
After much delay, work has started on a $2 million entertainment complex in northwest Gainesville that could open sometime this summer.
Called Skate Station Fun Works, the family attraction will include miniature golf, roller skating, rock climbing and arcade games. There are also plans to install a go-cart course next to the NW 76th Boulevard property, which is being developed by Lester and Patti Burkett, owners of Skate Station on North Main Street in Gainesville.
The Burketts initially planned to start building the complex last spring, but a lengthy permit approval process and some final changes to the project bumped up the schedule, Lester Burkett said. Workers recently started clearing the land for a "full-speed" construction effort that will hopefully wrap up this summer, he said.
"There are so many issues with permitting and building codes," he said. "It takes a heck of a lot longer to do one of these projects than I anticipated."
Florida Bank will finance the project, which is being built at the end of NW 76th Boulevard and just down the road from the Newberry Square and Newberry Crossing shopping plazas. Skate Station Fun Works will create about 40 jobs, mostly part-time positions, and will be open all week with extended hours on weekends.
The current Skate Station, a roller rink/arcade on North Main Street, could become an ice skating facility if the Burketts can find enough investors. Lester Burkett said it would take about $1 million to renovate the building and convert it for ice skating, and although he has about half of that money lined up, he's still looking for other financial partners.
If the money doesn't come through, Burkett said he has discussed using the Skate Station as some type of recreation facility for the city and county.
"We would work to develop a recreation center for the city's east side," Burkett said. "Right now, this is the only type of recreation outlet on this side of town."
A temporary ice rink in Ocala that was open during the recent holiday season was deemed a success by officials in that city.
An estimated 30,000 people used the rink between late November 2002 and Jan. 6, when the facility closed down.
A permanent ice skating facility in Gainesville could be intriguing for local recreation, said Carl Harness, interim director of the city's recreation and parks department.
"It would be interesting to see how our local market responds to something like that," said Harness, who also is Gainesville's assistant city manager. "The kids sure would love it. If it succeeded, it could create permanent uses like skating lessons and hockey leagues. It's definitely something new that folks around here can't do every day."
Joe Coombs can be reached at (352) 338-3102 or coombsj@gvillesun.com.

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