Editorial: Give fun house serious thought

March 16, 2017 GMT

A proposal to convert the former Rodeo City Bowl building into an art-inspired fun center jumps to the top of the list of interesting ideas for that building.

A community group, Mel’s Bowl and Fun Center Advisory Board, approached the Kittitas County commissioners Tuesday with an idea to convert the vacant facility into a multi-use fun center that would include a few of the bowling lanes, a putt-putt golf course, a pool hall and possibly a concert stage. The project would involve local artists as well.

Commissioner Obie O’Brien was the only commissioner in attendance and his initial response was far from supportive. O’Brien questioned the financial viability of the project, pointing out the Children’s Activity Museum in downtown Ellensburg was forced to close several years ago.

It is a valid point. A putt-putt golf venture came and went several years ago. The bowling alley, itself, struggled before closing. People also may recall the Bubbleman’s House of Fun in the old Darigold Building many years ago.


People often complain about the lack of family-friendly activities but there may not be enough money in that sector in our small slice of the economy.

But also it is wrong to dismiss the idea. This idea taps into the creative community and it’s never a good idea to bet against what creative forces can accomplish.

It is also important to consider the status report on the building — it’s vacant, and the county doesn’t have much of a plan for its use. A business approached the county about turning it into a western dance hall. There hasn’t been much news about that lately but the early discussions indicated a deal that was not favorable to the county. A proposal to re-open a bowling alley fell through.

O’Brien said the county wants the building to generate revenue. Right now it is generating zero. Any revenue would be an improvement.

The concept of the fun house sounds like an idea that would require a mix of funding sources to work, whether that means grants at the start or donations as it continues.

One way to look at the bowling alley is as a community asset. We, through the auspices of Kittitas County government, own that building. We want it to generate value. That value could be rent/lease money but it also might mean a function that enhances our quality of life.

It is too narrow a view to look at the building a say, “it’s a private-sector business location.” When the county bought that property and building, it expanded the possibilities for its use. The county could treat it like another commercial property or it could treat it like it’s part of the Kittitas County Events Center.

If you see that property as part of the events center, the fun house proposal makes more sense. When you add in the fact that the county’s only public pool is nearby, that area becomes a destination for families by offering a host of activities. The proximity of the fun center, fairgrounds and pool creates a synergy.

Obviously, this is the early stage for this idea and the other commissioners have not had the opportunity to comment. But it is an idea that deserves serious consideration.