BRANDON ó Aliens have landed in Brandon and their leader is part of a Greek family that has owned local roller skating rinks since opening its first one in Tarpon Springs circa 1981.
Astro Skate, a brand known for its bright pink exterior building paint and its outer space-themed rinks has taken over Skateland of Brandon and owner Chris Maganias continues to make renovations that could be considered out of this world by roller rink standards.
Chris, along with sisters Connie, Sophie and Melanie, were part of the Astro Skate indoctrination 36 years ago when their parents, Christos ó who served in the U.S. Army during the Korean War ó and Martha opened a rink behind Tarpon Lanes.
Chris has since overseen the opening of five roller skating rinks, including the Brandon location that he purchased for nearly $1.5 million and plans to invest $450,000 in renovations by early 2018.
"Iíve been chasing Brandon for a long time," said Maganias, who in 2015 bought rinks in Bradenton and Orlando to go along with his Pinellas Park location. "Mr. (John) Pate told me in 1988 he knew he was going to sell it to me one day."
Skateland of Brandon opened in 1984 and Maganias said he wants to modernize the family fun center while placing a historical shrine full of photos and archives in the foyer.
"Places fall into disrepair and look like they are stuck in the 1980s," said Maganias, who started painting and bringing in new carpeting shortly after buying it Oct. 3. "If we donít get them, we go out of business. We have owners who have been there way too long."
Other external upgrades include a freshly-paved parking lot, exterior security lighting and a fresh entrance that will include a new front door.
Inside is where most of the TLC is taking place. Astro sanded the skating floor, painted the ceiling black and the walls with extra-terrestrial murals and installed new restroom fixtures. Maganias relocated the skate rental room (which will feature 650 new skates) to the back and is converting the existing space into a dance room with confetti, a smoke machine and prizes.
A new sound system promises to drop the bass and boom as much as the local ordinances (and neighboring businesses he already started befriending) will allow. The center of the rink will feature an inflatable fun zone. Other plans include the installation of 10 55-inch televisions and in the spring, an all new air conditioning system.
"Thereís a difference between retro and being a dump," said Maganias, who also operates a fleet of 15 Astro buses that picks up kids from day cares and charter trips to places like Epcot. "Thereís a misconception that skating is dying."
Maganias says the industry average for roller rinks is $500,000-$600,000 in annual revenues, but that all Astro Skates bring in more than $1 million.
Maganias said he doesnít fear new-fangled destinations such as Dave & Busters because he knows people will bring their kids back for a $7 all-day party with reasonably priced food and drinks and better pizza thanks to a new $10,000 oven.
"Every 3-5 years, we remodel," said Maganias, whose rinks also feature a store full of toys, trinkets and temporary tattoos. "You canít have a dumpy looking place forever. We go overboard."
Extended stay concept expands to Riverview
Uptown Suites, a new concept in extended-stay accommodations, is expanding to Riverview.
The hotel facility broke ground in November at 4011 Foxworth Road.
The chain has just two locations (North Carolina and Tennessee) and soon will launch in Texas, Denver and Miami with plans to add more than 20 locations by 2018.
Visit uptownsuites.com for more details.
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