Developers detail plans for high-tech family entertainment center

Site preparation work has already begun on the Station 300 entertainment complex at Buckwalter Place.
Site preparation work has already begun on the Station 300 entertainment complex at Buckwalter Place. Jay Karr/ The Island Packet

A $7 million family entertainment center planned for Bluffton will be equal parts high-tech bowling alley, sports bar and arcade, its developers said during a groundbreaking Wednesday.

"This will not be your father's bowling center," said Gary Trimm, a Hilton Head Island resident and president of developer Station 300.

The developers announced plans in January to build the center in Buckwalter Place, replicate it elsewhere and establish a corporate headquarters in Bluffton.

On Wednesday, they revealed more details, including the center's name, Station 300 Bluffton, and website, The 33,000-square-foot center is planned to open in January and operate 365 days a year.

Developers and elected officials at the groundbreaking said the 4.2-acre center will attract people from miles around, boost the region's economy, enhance the town's nightlife and 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's headquarters and a shopping center with a Publix grocery store.

Station 300 officials expect to hire five to seven full-time employees and 35 to 40 part-time employees. They also plan to build a series of Station 300s throughout the Southeast and develop software in Bluffton to use in their own centers or market to other similar businesses. They hope eventually to employ "a number of software developers," according to a news release.

Family entertainment centers are growing in popularity, Station 300 vice president Gary Brust said. He began researching them about eight years ago after they sprouted in Atlanta, where he and Trimm worked together at a pair of technology companies.

Brust estimated there are 60 to 100 such centers in the country. The closest are in Statesboro and Pooler, Ga., he said.

Brust and Trimm said they decided to build one in Bluffton because of the area's rapid population growth and demographics, including its mix of retirees and families.

According to Station 300 officials:

  • The bowling section will include 24 lanes with an array of audio, video and light settings that can be customized to players' preferences or for holidays; pin setters that center officials say are the world's fastest and most reliable; and the ability to instantly switch from standard league play to "cosmic bowling," in which lanes, pins and balls glow in the dark.
  • Players will be able to pick from 10 games in addition to the usual 10-pin setup, repeatedly practice picking up a troublesome spare, program high-definition monitors to show sporting events and other programs and pay for things throughout the center with special cards.

    The center's system will help players select bowling balls, return those balls at either high or low heights, accommodate online reservations and recognize the fingerprints of returning customers.

  • The restaurant and lounge area will have a separate audio, video and light system; seat 130 people; serve liquor; deliver food and drink to lanes; and accommodate live music events.
  • The arcade will feature 40 games.
  • The center also will include three rooms for parties or meetings. It will employ a full-time party and event planner, and guests' photos and videos can follow a party from the rooms to the lanes.
  • Bluffton Mayor Lisa Sulka said the center will serve as a gathering place for the community.

    "This is a big deal for Bluffton," she said.