EARLY — Gordon Wood Stadium, the Camp Bowie Family Aquatic Center and the Bert V. Massey II Sports complex will have a new neighbor with Gators Fun Factory moving to Brownwood.
Tonya Collazo, who co-owns Gators Fun Factory with her husband Lou Collazo, will move from the Heartland Mall, which could create a new entertainment corridor for area families.
“It’s going to take a lot of work. We have the building and we’re shooting for the end of summer. It’s a lot bigger. I think it’s 27,000 square foot,” Collazo said. “It’s the Diamond P building, which is just a big warehouse right now. We’re going to go in, add flooring, air conditioning and all of that fun stuff. Then we will be putting in the arcade, the skating rink and we’re adding laser tag. We have a guy that wants to put batting cages out there and, eventually, I want to put in go carts.”
While seemingly ambitious, when considering the Collazos purchased Gators Fun Factory only a year ago the move and expansion seems appropriate. Collazo said she and her husband purchased the skating rink after hearing the previous owner’s plans to sell the building. Since moving to Brown County, Gators Factory became a weekly destination for her four children. Fearing another owner purchases would have the right to do whatever they liked with the building, she felt the investment was not only financial sound and gave her family something to bond around.
“At the beginning, it was just full of flat-screen TVs so kids could play Xbox and, of course, the skating rink,” Collazo said. “We added a full redemption counter to go with all of our arcade games so it’s 3,600 square feet of games. We slowly, slowly added and bought these games. Some are pretty pricy so we had to find used ones.”
Although the move may leave a significant vacancy at the Heartland Mall, recent shifts in the business climate may be a signal that vacancy will not last long. Less than six months after the announced closure of the Sears Hometown Store, the city of Early announced Xtreme Jump planned to use space for its newest location. Hobby Lobby recently spent thousands renovating the former location of J.C. Penny’s for its July 2018 opening, which saw damage following the 2016 flood. The former Scott’s building across from Heartland Mall will be the newest Mattressville location. The currently-under-construction Early Parkway shopping center has four out of five business spaces already rented out to businesses with K LeShea’s Florist & Gift already open for business.
Collazo, who is a board member with the Early Chamber of Commerce, believes the future is bright for Early, which recently reported a 50 percent increase in sales tax collection in a five-year period. With the Collazos doing so much to expand the amenities at Gators Fun Factory, it may make for a difficult next few months. However, with that move comes excitement and a new horizon for the Collazos and child patrons.
“We saved it for the children. It’s a labor of love. It’s not a money maker,” Collazo said. “It’s fun. It’s consuming a lot of energy. I thought I was young, but now I feel super old. It’s fun just seeing the faces of these kids smiling when they’re playing games or out skating.”
For those looking to get in one last roll around the rink before the big move, Gators Fun Factory will host a Luau Lock-In March 8th and 9th. For more information, contact Gators Fun Factory at (325) 643-4263 or follow them on Facebook.