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A look at the arcade, go-kart track and pavilion at the Grand Island Fun Center, 2660 Grand Island Blvd. David Glian is marking his 10th year at the helm.
A look at the arcade, go-kart track and pavilion at the Grand Island Fun Center, 2660 Grand Island Blvd. David Glian is marking his 10th year at the helm.

Grand Island Fun Center lives up to its name

Sat, Jun 24th 2023 07:00 am

By Karen Carr Keefe
Senior Contributing Writer

David Glian is marking his 10th year at the helm of the Grand Island Fun Center and, every day, it’s still fun to come to work.

Who could blame him? With go-karts, laser tag, mini golf, a batting cage, an arcade and a snack bar with pizza, beverages and desserts, what’s not to like?

“Sometimes, I come to work and it doesn’t even feel like work – when we have to drive go-karts around all day to test them and inspect them and stuff, it doesn’t feel like I’m doing a day’s work. It makes the day go by a little quicker,” Glian said.

He grew up in Clarence, graduated with a bachelor’s in management and human resources from John Carroll University in Cleveland, and now lives in Lewiston. He said he had already started and had run a few businesses in high school and early college and had a little money to invest.

Glian, 30, was just a college student when his dad approached him with a business proposition. The Fun Center went up for auction because of bankruptcy in 2013, and he wanted to know if his son would go in with him to buy and run the amusement center.

“I kind of got thrown into it,” he said. “We went 50-50 partners. He’s an entrepreneur involved with a lot of different things. I found the passion in this. So in 2016, I offered to buy him out, and I’ve owned it myself ever since.”

The first owner was Bob Weaver, who built it in 1994 and sold it about six or seven years later, Glian said. There were about five different owners between the time that Weaver owned it and when he and his father took over.

“No one really put the energy into it. It was just, ‘Oh, a fun summer activity,’ ” Glian said. “But as the business climate has changed, you can’t really do anything partially anymore. You have to be fully dedicated, especially with the cost of doing business. You can’t just be open two, three months in the summer. We’re now open year-round.”

He said when he and his dad took over, they got the business up and running in about six weeks. The business had been destroyed before they took over, Glian said.

“We had to repaint everything,” he explained. “Windows were broken, we didn’t have any attractions here, there weren’t any go-karts. So, in six weeks, we went from, basically just a shell of a building” to opening under new management on Memorial Day of 2013.

And there have been substantial changes in the past few years, as well, he said.

“Over the last three years, we’ve done a total renovation; so, if customers haven’t been here in the last three years, it’s a completely different business than what it was pre-COVID,” Glian said.

“In the last three years, collectively, we’ve invested about $1 million in the property. We redid the game room, got every single old game out of here, put brand-new games in,” he said.

In 2021, they redid the golf course, the turf and the landscaping. The laser tag arena was renovated and they got new laser tag equipment. There also were batting cage upgrades.

This year, they installed three pavilions for private parties and events.

“We’ve always struggled with seating space – it was a big demand of the customer – more shaded area, more place to sit,” Glian said. “If there’s not a party or an event, people are more than welcome to sit there and hang out, eat a meal.”

When the weather turns inclement in the winter months, the arcade is the primary attraction, he said. They also do a lot of birthday parties, and the snack bar is open.

“And if you get one of those nice days in the winter – which we do occasionally have, believe it or not – we still will do golf outside,” Glian said. “We keep the go-karts and laser tag open until there’s snow on the ground. We keep everything open as long as possible.

“Once in a while, in December, January, February, we’ll get a couple nice days – people will go out and play mini golf. They’ll bundle up, and as long as there’s no snow, they’ll play.”

Glian is the one who added laser tag in 2016, transforming 80 extra parking lot space into a popular activity.

“I saw a concept at a trade show where you can do outside laser tag,” Glian said. The idea grew from there. “Over the summer, it’s our third-biggest attraction here. We repurposed a space and kids love it, parents love it – it’s a fun time.”

There’s also a new addition to the building for their snack bar this year, resulting in the kitchen being able to accommodate more orders.

“That has allowed us to expand our menu and better serve the customer with another order window where the line isn’t as long,” Glian said.

The business is ready for the big crowds that come with holidays – especially Father’s Day.

“We just did an almost 250-person post-prom earlier this month. … That was our biggest group and we handled it very easily,” Glian said.

The Fun Center was closed to the public during that big private party. “We do group sizes from five to 50 is probably our sweet spot,” he noted. “But we’ve had plenty of groups over 50 this year. We can definitely handle big, big groups, as well.”

On Father’s Day, the Fun Center handled close to 250 in attendance from the general public.

Glian said that now, going into his 11th season, “We kind of know the popular days, the popular holidays – and as long as we staff it accordingly, it runs pretty smooth.”

He said there are two full-time employees who are out of school and about 30 part-time high school and college students, most of whom are Grand Island residents.

The business has strived to make the mini golf course special.

“We have 18 holes of mini golf. We highlight a lot of Grand Island features,” Glian said. “The lighthouse at the front of the course is a scale replica of the lighthouse by the (Buffalo) Launch Club. The sawmill over there used to actually be on Grand Island, as well. Our hole 16 is in the shape of the Grand Island ‘pork chop.’ It has water going around it. It replicates the Niagara River, and we have the waterfall that replicates Niagara Falls. So it’s not just 18-hole mini golf, it has a lot of Grand Island history and heritage.”

“Go-karts are definitely our top attraction – what people come here for,” Glian said. “We have the only place in Buffalo with gas-powered go-karts; we’re the only place with two-seater go-karts so the kids who are under the 56-inches-tall, they can ride with an adult.”

“Each race, you get 10 laps around the track. We have one of the longest tracks in the area – it’s a quarter-mile long – and it’s just a great time,” he said.

“It’s just fun just standing by and watching the kids race each other and laugh and goof around – even as a spectator. We get people that come in and sit on the bleachers. They won’t race that day. They’ll come in and just watch for an hour – it’s a spectator sport, as well. It’s definitely the highlight of our operation here.”

The Grand Island Fun Center is into its summer season, opening at 11 a.m. seven days a week and closing at 10 p.m. on weekdays and at 11 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays. It has five, unique, different attractions and food onsite.

“A lot of the other fun places in the area, they just have one attraction to do,” Glian said. “There’s a lot of other great places … but our advantage is you can come here, spend a few hours and do multiple different things, instead of just going to a bowling alley to bowl or a LASERTRON just to play laser tag. We have everything in a one-stop shop.”

The Grand Island Fun Center is located at 2660 Grand Island Blvd.

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