Gonzales center to open this year
By Bret H. McCormick
River Parishes bureau
July 31, 2012
GONZALES — Ascension Parish residents have heard talk of a bowling alley for decades.
By the end of the year, that talk should become a reality.
Malco Theatres Inc. held a groundbreaking ceremony Thursday to announce a new bowling alley and entertainment center that will be located in the old Wal-Mart building in the Bayou Plaza retail center on Airline Highway.
Rick Bourgeois, Malco’s senior vice president, said the project has been in development for the past two years. The more than 42,000-square-foot facility will feature 26 bowling lanes, including a separate six-lane party center, an “action alley” for children that will have bumper cars, a laser maze and an arcade.
The new facility is being billed by developers as “Ascension’s premier entertainment complex.”
“Bowling itself just is not enough,” Bourgeois said. “You have to have family entertainment.”
Frank Michelle, of Gonzales, one of several Ascension Parish residents who competed in the 2012 United States Bowling Congress Open in Baton Rouge, said he is excited to have a bowling alley located in his home parish.
A 40-year bowler who “pretty much grew up in a bowling alley” and also taught his children to bowl, Michelle said bowling provides a “really good family atmosphere.”
Although he doesn’t bowl as much as he did in the past, Michelle said he still hits the lanes once or twice a week and he would gladly bowl at home instead of traveling to Baton Rouge.
“It’s growing so much in Ascension,” Michelle said. “There’s a bunch of people that travel to Baton Rouge to bowl. If they can do it in their backyard and don’t have to do all that travel, I think it would do really good.”
Malco, which is based in Memphis, Tenn., will include four projection screens in the complex in hopes of attracting groups to watch LSU or New Orleans Saints football games, Bourgeois said.
The Malco Family Entertainment Complex will be the fifth bowling alley the company has in Louisiana, including Circle Bowl and Metro Bowl in Baton Rouge. Bourgeois said the new bowling center will be the first constructed in the state in more than 20 years.
Malco also operates 29 movie theaters in Tennessee, Arkansas, Kentucky, Mississippi and Missouri. Its plan in Gonzales calls for a second phase of construction to add a movie complex, possibly as early as next year, Bourgeois said.
Malco teamed up with the Robert Family Partnership, a group of five brothers who own the Bayou Plaza retail center, in order to bring the project to Ascension Parish.
Steve Robert, the family’s spokesman, said he and his brothers had been searching for an anchor tenant since they bought the plaza about 12 years ago. He said he believes the family entertainment complex will drive further development.
“This is gonna be a big boost not only for the shopping center but for the whole area,” Robert said.
The target date for the complex’s opening is Dec. 1, Robert said. The facility will employ about 50 people, and Malco will begin accepting applications in September, according to a company news release.
Ascension Parish Sheriff Jeff Wiley said for years Ascension Parish residents have commuted to Baton Rouge in order to bowl. Recently, his family threw a birthday party for his granddaughter at Circle Bowl.
“We’re gonna get that here, and brand new,” Wiley said.
Gonzales Mayor Barney Arceneaux and state Rep. Johnny Berthelot, Arceneaux’s predecessor as mayor, both said they were pleased that the project is being completed.
“It’s been a pretty good while since we started working on this, and it’s good to see it come to fruition,” Berthelot said.
“We’ve been hearing about a bowling alley for about 50 years, so I want you to know how excited we are,” Arceneaux said.