New entertainment center on track for January opening

gmartin@islandpacket.comNovember 27, 2011 

The atmosphere inside Station 300, a family-oriented entertainment complex under construction in Bluffton, is deafening and disorienting.

With buzz saws and hammers providing a tense soundtrack, hard-hatted workers scramble throughout the 33,000-square-foot structure. The air is redolent of wet paint and freshly poured asphalt from the adjacent parking lot.

But by Jan. 7, its developers hope, the cacophony will give way to a different set of noises: the hollow striking of bowling balls against pins, the digitized chirping of a bustling arcade and the whir of cash registers opening.

"We're pretty much where we need to be at this point," said John Holden, director of operations and guest happiness for Bluffton Family Entertainment Center, the business's developers. "We've come a long way since June."

At a June 1 groundbreaking ceremony, developers and elected officials said the center would anchor a 10-acre entertainment district at Buckwalter Place. The 94-acre mixed-use development also houses health care company CareCore National's headquarters, the Bluffton Police Department and a shopping center with a Publix grocery store.

The decision to open the center in Bluffton came after about two years of research, according to company president Gary Trimm.

"The demographics here are just perfect," he said. "There's high population growth, a lack of anything like (the center) around and a good mix of retirees, families with kids and young professionals."

Station 300, which will be completed at an estimated cost of $7 million, will offer an unconventional bowling experience.

Its 24 lanes will include audio, video and light settings that customers can customize and a late-night glow-in-the-dark experience that developers have dubbed "galactic bowling."

An arcade, a full bar and kitchen and two party rooms also are planned. Six of the bowling lanes can be cordoned off with a movable wall for private parties.

The center's name is inspired in part by railroads, and several stylistic elements -- the bar and dining area will be named "Traxx," for example -- will bear out that theme. The second half of the center's name refers to a perfect score in bowling.

While there's plenty of work to be done -- the bar isn't much beyond a horseshoe-shaped skeleton of steel framework, and the lanes are still being laid down board by board.

Still, the developers are confident it will be ready for a Jan. 7 "soft opening."

A formal grand opening is planned for Jan. 20-22.

The developers expect to generate about $3 million in revenue the center's first year and say their annual payroll for its operation will be about $725,000, to be distributed among seven full-time and about 40 part-time employees.

They've already got a head start on next year's profits; their first deposit for a birthday party came in last week.

The early deposit is indicative, Holden said, of what he expects to be strong local demand for the entertainment center.

"We've heard from many people in the community so far, and every person said they can't wait for this to open," he said. "They said they're starving for a place like this."

Follow reporter Grant Martin at twitter.com/LowCoBiz.

Related content:

Developers detail plans for high-tech family entertainment center, June 1, 2011

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