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New business to feature birdies and bogeymen

NEW PORT RICHEY

Forget Home Depot vs. Lowe's or Best Buy vs. Circuit City. Here is the next business battle in west Pasco: trolls vs. alligators. Monster Mini Golf — an indoor, glow-in-the-dark course featuring music, special effects billed as "Broadway quality" and robotic monsters — is opening next month on U.S. 19 in New Port Richey.

The 18-hole course, still under construction, is less than 6 miles south of Congo River Golf, an outdoor, jungle-themed miniature golf course that opened last month.

Monster Mini Golf is a 3-year-old franchised business based in Rhode Island.

Bob and Tracy Mendonca, a Trinity couple with children ages 4, 10 and 12, own the franchise for the New Port Richey location. The course under construction is in the Vanderbilt Square shopping mall on the west side of U.S. 19, just north of Main Street.

Bob Mendonca said he thinks that families — parents and their kids, coming together — will be the biggest market. Adults will pay $7.50 for a game, while kids will play for $6.50, $5.50 or free, depending on a sliding height scale.

"We don't want it to be a teen hangout," he said. "It's really a family place."

The Mendoncas, Rhode Island natives, started a landscape and paver business after moving to Pasco in 2005. The housing market, of course, has not been kind to such businesses, and the couple started thinking about other opportunities.

About a year ago, they stopped at an indoor, glow-in-the-dark miniature golf course near Orlando and felt as if they had found a family-friendly entertainment niche. That's when they started researching and found the Monster Mini Golf company, which has been looking to expand gradually from its Rhode Island roots.

Monster Mini Golf has more than 10 locations around the country, and another dozen are expected to open this year. The estimated initial investment for the franchise owners ranges from $288,000 to $346,000, including a $30,000 franchise fee.

Bob Mendonca, 39, said he and his wife wanted to start a business close to home. But even more, he said, west Pasco seemed a good fit: Even as the number of young families grew in Pasco in recent years, he said, the entertainment options for them did not.

The company helped the couple look at local demographics, "and they thought this area was really good," Mendonca said.

He said Monster Mini Golf courses typically host a lot of children's birthday parties, and the company sees places such as Chuck E. Cheese's as its main competition.

Mendonca said the news broke that Congo River was coming to Pasco just as he had started planning his own business. He said he thinks Monster Mini Golf will do well despite the close competition.

"I think the biggest difference is being inside," he said. "It's just a popular place to go that's cool."

Steve Baker, the manager at Congo River, said he welcomes the competition. Some days are perfect for outdoor golf, and others are better spent indoors, he said.

"We complement each other," he said.

Jodie Tillman can be reached at jtillman@sptimes.com or (727) 869-6247.

New business to feature birdies and bogeymen 07/15/08 [Last modified: Wednesday, July 16, 2008 7:39pm]
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