Citrus County will soon have a new indoor entertainment center where folks can climb walls, ride an electric go-kart, find their way through a mirror maze or throw an ax.
And it’s going into the former site of Kmart at the Crystal River Mall.
Just Amuse Me! is the brainchild of local business owner David Perry, who owns Hunter Springs Kayak in Crystal River.
“We are super excited to open,” Perry said.
Equally excited is mall manager Millie Bresnahan, who believes the addition of this entertainment center will spur other tenants to take a second look at the mall.
“More people will be interested in moving here once he comes,” she said.
Perry declined to say how much money he invested in this new family-oriented venture, which will require the hiring of 35-40 employees.
Perry said he plans to stay open later in the evening to accommodate everyone.
“I think by putting this venue in that particular space, we will create more foot traffic coming to the mall and create a better opportunity for them to lease out other (vacant spots),” Perry said.
There will be plenty of seating and viewing areas for participants and those who want to watch the action.
Eventually, Perry plans to sell food and beverages on-site.
Perry said he anticipates opening the first phase of Just Amuse Me! in 30-60 days with one of the four entertainment components. He hopes to have the entire center built out by early or late spring 2020.
Perry said his indoor center fills a much-needed void in Citrus County and offers an alternative for locals and tourists once they are done swimming with manatees or doing other outdoor activities.
“We wanted to have something that would complement what we already have and increase our draw as a destination,” Perry said.
Just Amuse Me! will have these four components:
– An electric go-kart track that Perry said will be cleaner than the gas-powered variety
– Rock walls that will accommodate beginners and experienced climbers
– A mirror maze
– An ax-throwing parlor. Perry said the sport is so popular that leagues throughout the world have formed.
Perry also plans to use his entertainment center as a place where people can hold birthday parties, corporate events and community fundraisers.
“We’re sold as a destination for folks around the world to see the Nature Coast, experience manatees and a lot of folks plan their vacations and time here with more in mind,” Perry said. “This will accent what we already have, with all our outdoor stuff and if it rains, they can go inside or just relax from the manatee tour and come here and enjoy their time.”
Perry will continue to operate Hunter Springs Kayak, where folks can rent watercraft and sign up for instruction.
Bresnahan said Perry’s venture fits with the direction she has been steering for the mall. The best way to ensure its survival is to think out-of-the-box and introduce non-traditional uses, she said.
Kmart closed in 2017. Before that, Sears, JCPenney and Belk closed. The two biggest anchors now are Rural King and Regal Cinema.
Shoppers would rather walk to their computers or whip out their phones and make online purchases than drive miles to a brick-and-mortar store, she said.
That’s why this past April, Bresnahan introduced the opening of The Citrus Executive Hub, where people can rent business space to either do work, meet clients or chat with other business owners. It marries social media and physical space to attract people, she said.
Perry’s entertainment venue “means a great deal to the mall and the Crystal River community,” Bresnahan said.
Perry will take up all 95,000 square feet of the old Kmart space, which equates to about 2 acres.
Bresnahan has been seeking new retailers for that and other spaces vacated by big-box stores, but hasn’t found any.
“It looks like we’re going full-blown into entertainment and restaurants and morphing away from the big retailers,” Bresnahan said. “It’s a very good use of space.”
Bresnahan said she’s been talking with Perry for two years about the entertainment concept and is happy to see it reach fruition.
“He’s worked his plan and he’s ready to go,” she said. “I’m very excited for him and very excited for us.”