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a family friendly entertainment mecca
Story by Audrey Hanes; photography by Amy Long

As Jonesboro continues to grow and develop, drawing both new businesses and families to the area, the need for additional options for family entertainment continues to become more apparent. Jonesboro Bowling Center’s Stacey
Barr Blaxton’s goal is to answer that need in the form of additional family friendly activities all under one roof.

Jonesboro Bowling Center has been around for nearly four decades. What started as a 24-lane bowling alley called Shelby Lanes just off a gravel road had grown into a 40-lane bowling center by the time Blaxton had the opportunity to purchase the facility 12 years ago. Now a family-owned facility, Blaxton owns
and operates the business along with her parents, J.T. and Sybel Barr, and brothers, James Barr and Phillip Barr, who serves as financial adviser.

“It was strictly a business opportunity,” said Blaxton. “When I first started, I averaged a 58, which was really funny to all my employees who bowled.

“I believe wholeheartedly that you have to have a great staff to back what you’re trying to do and help you with your dream, and I have the best staff. Many of my staff members have been here for more than four years and some as many as 30.”

Blaxton says the bowling center’s clientele and the community’s interest in bowling in general have changed drastically over the years.“The customer base has totally changed,” she said. “It used to be just for fanatics, but now it’s more of a recreational activity.

“We know that Jonesboro needs more entertainment, so when the economy really took a hit in 2008 and 2009, I started researching and traveling to figure out the best thing we could add that would mesh well with Jonesboro. Jonesboro needs more family entertainment. It has tons of restaurants, but it’s lacking in activities for the whole family. … I have been in Jonesboro my whole life. We see that need, and we’re trying to meet that need on a bigger scale all under one roof.”

What Blaxton decided that Jonesboro needed is more of a hybrid center that combines bowling with other family-friendly activities. Jonesboro Bowling Center’s recent expansion, which is part of a three-year, three-phase plan, will allow the center to hire an additional 17 employees. The first phase, which included adding arcade games and removing eight of the center’s 40 lanes in
order to add a Lasertron area, was completed in August 2013.

Lasertron is housed in a two-story, 5,500-square-foot area that can accommodate up to 30 players. There are 10 different chip modes – such as spy and deflector – that allow games to be scored differently, and Blaxton hopes to implement a laser tag league in the fall. Whether it’s rented out for a birthday party, used as a team building exercise for a local company or is simply a fun activity to enjoy between bowling games, the center’s general manager says
Lasertron is fun for everyone.

“Lasertron provides bonding time for families in a fun way,” she said. “At the same time, it can be competitive for families, but it always brings out the best of fun in everyone.”

Phases two and three promise to add more unique opportunities under the same roof, as well. Construction for phase two, which includes a 35-foot-tall addition to the center that will house four new activities, will begin in August and is set to debut in 2015.

“For the next phase, we’re totally redoing the front, rebranding and renaming and want to start offering more food of a café-type style,” said Blaxton. “We’re also adding the other building and rooms to have corporate meetings and parties in.” Blaxton says that phase three is still under wraps.

“We offer such a variety of options to do under one roof,” she said. “The more you can offer, the more a family can stay under one roof. That’s our whole goal – for a parent to load an activity card and be able to let their kids do a lot of different activities. As a mom and because I grew up here, I know that’s what Jonesboro needs.

“I enjoy seeing people smile and having fun, both parents and kids. That’s why we’re doing this.”

For more information about Jonesboro Bowling Center, located at 3102 Shelby Drive, visit Jonesborobowl.com or call 972-5270.