High-end bowling center, movie theater coming to Gonzales

Lisa Yates, Editor

A combined high-end bowling center and movie theater is coming to Gonzales. It’s currently under construction near the intersection of Airline Highway and Highway 44, in the Bayou Plaza shopping center where the old Walmart was located.

The official ground-breaking ceremony took place at 9 a.m., July 26, with the mayor and other officials scheduled to appear at the event.

Rick Bourgeois, senior vice president of Malco Theatres, Inc., described the project as a “family entertainment complex” which is being built in two phases. He said Phase I is slated to open in late fall, by December.

“Phase I will have over 42,000 square feet with state-of-the-art entertainment,” he said. “We have different zones to take care of everyone’s needs.”

Bourgeois said there will be 26 lanes of bowling, with 20 lanes for public and league bowling.

“League bowling is only a small percentage of the business,” he said. “We wanted to have space for leagues, private parties and open bowling for the public so you never have to wait for a lane.”

The private party space consists of six lanes of bowling, expanded seating to hold more than 80 people, an area for catering, a sports bar, expanded kitchen facilities and a full-service snack bar. An added attraction planned for this area is a 12-foot by 40-foot permanent movie screen for sports, entertainment or corporate events.

“This Sports Zone will be the first of its kind in the Gulf Coast Region,” Bourgeois said.

In addition to the Sports Zone, he said, Phase I will also include an Action Alley and a Prize Palace.

Action Alley will be located on the right side of the facility when customers enter the front door. It will include indoor bumper cars, a laser maze, and birthday party rooms for kids. In addition, there will be more than 60 games that allow players to earn prize credits.

Bourgeois said the Prize Palace is the newest concept in redemption.

“You don’t have to wait in line to redeem your tickets,” he said. “You just walk through and pick out the prize you want.”

Bourgeois said once the entertainment complex opens the next step in Phase II is adding a movie complex to the facility.

“Our initial construction in Phase I already highlights an expanded movie lobby, plus we have designed the common entrance which can be utilized when movies may finally come to town in 2013.”

Malco Theatres, Inc., a forth generation entertainment company founded in 1915, has been in the bowling business in Baton Rouge and Lafayette since the late 1950s, and currently has 29 movie locations in five states outside of Louisiana.

Bourgeois said the concept of combining a bowling complex and a movie theater is relatively new.

“There are less than 10 in the whole country,” he said. “This is the future of entertainment in the sport of bowling. We think this is the perfect market for us (Malco) to have a regional amusement presence. It’s time that we combine all of our entertainment knowledge into one facility and Ascension’s growth warrants this project.”

As a result of this project, the Bayou Plaza shopping center is getting a facelift.

Robert Family Partnership operates the 125,000-square-foot retail center where the new family entertainment concept will be located.

Its spokesperson Stephen Robert said, “We spent over two years working with the Malco family regarding this concept. We are counting on the people of Ascension to keep their entertainment dollars here in Gonzales. Being located on Airline Highway at Highway 44 makes it an easy drive for anyone in the region. Having a long-term commitment from a century old company like Malco, justifies our plans to completely renovate Bayou Plaza with millions in improvements; and, we have other new tenants ready to revitalize the area.”

He said some of the improvements include:

·    Adding a new façade on the outside of the entire retail center,

·    Adding new signage

·    Adding new lighting in the parking lot

·    Adding new lines on the parking lot

·    Removing the chain-link fencing which was part of the old FEMA call center

·    Building a taller fence at the end of the parking lot

·    Adding trees to the perimeter of the parking lot by the new fence

·    Either remodeling the car wash facility located near the shopping center or removing it and leasing the space to a new business

Between the renovation to the shopping center and the creation of an entertainment-based destination, the total investment approaches $7 million in improvements.

Bourgeois said his facility will also generate approximately 50 new jobs. He said job applications will be taken beginning in September.

“Malco is counting on the young adults from St. Amant, Gonzales, Prairieville and the surrounding areas for the bulk of their hires,” he said. “They also hope that may who have to commute to Baton Rouge for work will consider this a closer alternative.”

For more information or to inquire about retail space, contact Steve at (225) 715-5541, or Pete at (225) 715-5525.