A Middle Georgia theme park has closed because people have less money to spend on non-necessities.
Starcadia Entertainment Park on Starcadia Circle off Bass Road in north Bibb County closed Tuesday after 11 years in operation. The 6-acre park, which opened in May 1998, includes miniature golf, go-carts, batting cages and an arcade.
“It’s very hard,” park owner Beverly Olson said Wednesday. “It’s my baby.”
But because of the economic downturn, people are weighing their options for available cash, Olson said. Attendance began dropping significantly in September and October, she said.
People “are making decisions between groceries and medicine, versus entertainment,” she said. “Entertainment understandably comes out on the short end.”
Olson informed the full-time staff of the closure Tuesday. While the center usually employs about 50 people part time during the summer, there are three full-time workers and about five part-time regular workers.
“There were a lot of tears,” when workers were informed of the closure, she said. “We are a big family.”
Sarah Witherspoon, tennis program coordinator at the John Drew Smith Tennis Center, said she will have to find another place to take children who attend summer tennis camp. The campers voted every time to go to Starcadia on Fridays after a week of camp.
“We are going to have to make some adjustments,” Witherspoon said. “It’s a shame it had to close. There are not many places for kids to go that are safe and where they can have some fun. ... The kids are going to hate that. It kind of finished off the week after tennis camp for them.”
Janice Marshall, president/CEO of the Macon-Bibb County Convention & Visitors Center, said the closure is “a great loss” from a tourism perspective.
“This was a wonderful place to include in our inventory of things for young adults and children to do,” Marshall said. “It served a great purpose in entertaining groups like the FFA (convention) and sports groups. It will be sorely missed.”
Also, the center was a good place for local residents to go, she said.
“My grandchildren enjoyed the arcade games,” she said.
Chip Cherry, president and CEO of the Greater Macon Chamber of Commerce, said the closure will leave a void in the community.
“It’s very disappointing that they had to close the facility and it will be missed,” Cherry said.
Olson got the idea for the park in 1994 when she and her then pre-teen son Charles were driving to Michigan and stopped at an entertainment center in Tennessee called Celebration Station.
“He said, ‘Mom, you ought to do something like this in Macon,’” Olson said. “I planned it from scratch.”
Jack Miscall, Starcadia’s first general manager, was a Mercer graduate student when he began working with Olson on designing the center, and he treated the job as his thesis.
“I think it’s sad for the community,” Miscall said, adding he and his wife, Honey, would take their three children to the facility.
Olson said a lot of details have to be worked out, but she plans to put the property up for sale.
“It’s a wonderful place to go, but I don’t think anybody could afford (to run it as an entertainment center),” she said.
A few employees will be at the center through the end of the month to answer questions and to pack up the facility.
To contact writer Linda S. Morris, call 744-4223.