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SuperPlay rises from the smoke of the old Valley Lanes

Center offers laser tag, modern arcade and new restaurant in addition to 24 bowling lanes


Photo Credit: JAIME VALDEZ - Jake LeBrun, 12, a seventh grader at St. Cecilia School, pursues the other team in a laser tag game at SuperPlay.

As bowlers knocked down pins and kids blasted each other in the laser tag room last week, owners Terry Pierce and Ken Paton marveled at the transformation of the old Valley Lanes into the modern SuperPlay.

“We had a chance to do it for the 21st century instead of the 20th century,” Paton said.

“It’s awesome,” said Heather Gentry of Beaverton, who stopped by with her kids to check out the newly opened business in the Valley Plaza Shopping Center on Beaverton-Hillsdale Highway. “I think it’s vastly improved from what it was before.”Photo Credit: JAIME VALDEZ - Terry Pierce, left, Kathy Holmes and Ken Paton are co-owners of SuperPlay.

Not long ago the future of the building looked bleak – and reeked.

After the old bowling alley closed for the night on New Year’s Eve, an electrical fire broke out during the first hour of 2012. There was little fire damage, but dense smoke filled the building and permeated the carpet and walls. The building was gutted and then closed for three years.

“It just kind of all went to hell,” said Paton, an expert in bowling center financing who tried to help Pierce and his wife, Kathy Holmes, sell their business after the fire.

But after nearly a year without a buyer, Paton decided to buy a share himself after seeing old bowling alleys elsewhere in the country find new life when they diversified with laser tag and modern arcades. A silent investor, John Massberg of California, also joined Paton, Pierce and Holmes as SuperPlay partners.

“They’re really good at taking care of bowlers inside the building,” Paton said of Pierce and Holmes. “I can’t run a bowling center, but I can twist a banker’s arm.”Photo Credit: JAIME VALDEZ - Hayley Schuler, 13, left, and Haley Gentry, 12, both seventh graders at St. Cecilia School, pursue the other team in a laser tag game at SuperPlay.

The partners had $2.4 million from an insurance payout, and they also worked out a new long-term lease in Valley Plaza, now owned by neighboring Jesuit High School. The partners then hired an architect and contractor to bring the building back to life inside, although it still looks like its from 1960 on the outside.

The new center, which opened quietly on Super Bowl weekend, stands on multiple financial legs instead of relying just on league bowlers, whose ranks have thinned in the decades since Pierce took over as manager in 1989. He and Holmes bought out the previous owner in 2003 and remodeled twice, most recently in 2009.

The new partnership rebuilt the site with 24 modern bowling lanes, now equipped with a series of high-definition, 16-foot screens that can show sporting events, a child’s birthday photos or a company’s PowerPoint presentation. Other technology touches include wifi nodes and USB ports for customer use.

League bowlers are still welcome at SuperPlay, but families and party groups are likely to make up a bigger part of the clients in the future, Pierce said.

The partners removed eight of the original 32 lanes to make room for its spaceship-themed laser tag room, which they hope will be a major draw.

“There’s probably enough, if not a surplus, of lanes in this market, but there’s not enough laser tag,” Paton said.

“The kids said the laser (tag) was the best one in town,” Gentry said.

Thirteen-year-old Hayley Schuler of Raleigh Hills agreed.

“And it’s reasonable (in price), too,” she said of the $7 she paid to play.

“You can spend several hours down here without spending a whole lot of money,” Paton said.

Nearby, they renovated the arcade with some of the latest games, including a $31,000 Mach Storm game that allows players to simulate aerial dogfights over famous world landscapes.

Pierce said that SuperPlay's restaurant, which includes a full bar, also has a new chef who has significantly raised the quality of the food.

“I’ll brag it up to everybody,” he said.

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