More than a million kids have blasted lasers, putted golf balls, raced go-karts, taken home free bikes and blown out birthday candles at Mr. Biggs Family Fun Center since it opened in a former high-tech plant seven years ago.
But all that running, screaming fun will end April 29, when the 10,000-foot center at 5825 Mark Dabling Blvd. closes its doors. Jim Fenlason, CEO of Mr. Biggs, announced the closing on Friday morning, saying the bowling alley, go-karts and the rest would be pulled out to make room for the expansion of Stellar Restaurant Solutions, a restaurant call-center business founded by Mr. Biggs creator Steve Bigari.
He said no jobs will be lost in the closure, as Mr. Biggs employees will simply move from the fun center to the call center.
Bigari said that expanding his call center and shrinking Mr. Biggs would destroy the Mr. Biggs business model.
"Mr. Biggs doesn't work as Mr. Smalls," he said.
He said he learned that the hard way when he opened Li'l Biggs, a scaled-down version of Mr. Biggs, in 2008 at Stetson Hills and Powers Boulevard. The crowds never showed up and he had to close three years later.
"The marketplace is a great teacher," Bigari said.
That Bigari got into the fun center business in the first place was something of a fluke.
A former McDonald’s franchise owner, he bought the huge building that would house Mr. Biggs in 2005 as a place to put a call center.
"You know, initially, Mr. Biggs was a way to fill space," Bigari said. "I bought the building so that we could expand the call center. When the team was trying to figure out what to do in the rest of the space for the interim, a lot of ideas came out, and Mr. Biggs percolated to the top."
Since its beginning, the fun center has gone through many changes: a paintball arena was dropped, a bowling alley and ropes course were added.
And it looked like Mr. Biggs might become a chain. Not only did Bigari try to Li'l Biggs on the east side of Colorado Springs, he also purchased Fat City family entertainment center in Littleton.
"I was in over my head," Bigari said. "Growing Stellar and Biggs at the same time really was too much."
He sold the Littleton center a year later.
Still, Bigari insists that Mr. Biggs was in no way a failing business model.
"There's still strong demand for family entertainment," he said. "It's been solid year over year. It hasn't seen declines. At the same time, it's a lot of work."
On Friday morning, Mr. Biggs fans on Facebook talked about their favorite memories and feelings about the fun center.
"What a disappointment," wrote Rob Wogaman. "My kids are still too young to have enjoyed this place, and they will miss out. I hope someone else comes along and opens something up to cater to the kids. This town needs it."
Deb Crosby wrote, "My fondest memory of the company is when the owner nicely recovered the Christmas giveaway program for the city when it almost didn't happen! Good job!"
Bigari said he's not sure if Mr. Biggs' Best Christmas Ever will continue in its current form.
"But our commitment to helping families in need will not go away," he said.
Fenlason, who took over from Bigari in early 2011 as the CEO of Mr. Biggs, plans to bow out with a flourish, calling Mr. Biggs’ final two months a “Going Away Party,” featuring discounts on passes and parties.