Funtime Action Center opens in Merrill
Game – Skate – Lounge
BY TINA L. SCOTT
For anyone whose idea of a fun time is going to a skate park, in-line skating, skateboarding, and navigating ramps and pyramids or practicing tricks and techniques, Funtime Action Center in Merrill now provides a very affordable indoor skate park experience. Ramps, a pyramid, a grinding rail, and quarter pipes offer skaters a great venue for perfecting their rotations, tricks, and techniques no matter what the weather outdoors, all 12 months of the year.
Funtime Action Center opened Aug. 14, 2023, and is also designed as just a hangout for skaters and like-minded people who enjoy skating and the skating lifestyle, as well as youth and anyone who enjoys gaming and video games.
“Game – Skate – Lounge” is their business tagline, and the 1307 E. Main Street location in Merrill is divided into three separate spaces. Currently, the first space is part lounging area, part snack bar (where customers can purchase snacks like chips, candy, and cookies and beverages including flavored water, Gatorade, and soda), and part gaming area with gaming pcs, videogame consoles, and virtual reality. This hangout area can accommodate six or seven actual players, and there are portable headsets so kids can play in the skate park, too, business owner Cecil DeHart said.
The second space is the skate park, which also features a small seating area so friends can hang out and watch each other perfect their tricks and on-site equipment to use in the skate park, including some inline skates in some basic sizes, skateboards, scooters, helmets, and pads. Skaters are also welcome to bring their own boards, skates, and scooters.
The third space is currently unfinished and offers room for expansion. DeHart isn’t yet set on what he plans to do with that area. “We can either expand the skate park or create something back here as a third option for people,” he said. “I’ve been tossing around a lot of ideas, like a gymnastics area, something kind of fun like that, or a lot of kids are into parkour. They just like jump around at parks and stuff, do flips off of things. It’s kind of cool. They run around, climb buildings and things, it’s kind of a fun underground sport.” [For those unfamiliar with the term, parkour is an athletic endeavor, traversing natural or man-made obstacles, often in an urban environment, as quickly and skillfully as possible by running, jumping, rolling, climbing, vaulting, leaping, etc., all with the human body and without equipment. It was largely inspired by moves shown in video games and action movies (picture leaping over the back of the couch or leaping between buildings, running partway up the side of a wall and doing a flip, etc. as examples) and has now become a fun and competitive sport.]
DeHart said he also owns part of the vacant lot next door, so expanding the building itself could be an option in the future, as well.
DeHart, who is from Antigo, also owns Funtime Antigo, a similar facility in that city which he has owned for three years. “The gaming area is bigger there [in the Antigo location] but the skate park is smaller, and here the skate park is bigger but the gaming area is smaller,” he said.
DeHart said he had been considering expanding his business into other communities, adding facilities in cities like Merrill, Rhinelander, and Shawano, and hopes to create additional facilities down the road.
Merrill is the first such expansion.
Originally, another owner had acquired the Merrill building and started to construct an indoor skate park in the facility. That owner’s original intent was to create a skate shop and skate park, DeHart said, but the project came to a hault when he didn’t have the funding to complete the rest of the project. At the onset of the other owner’s project, “When I heard that this guy was trying to open up a skate park in Merrill,” DeHart’s intent was “Cool, I’d like to collaborate with this guy and do events together.”
When he realized the project had fallen through and the building was up for sale, he thought, “I can’t let a skate park like this go to waste,” DeHart said.
“I bought the building, kept the skate park, finished it up, and then added the gaming,” he said. He purchased the building in early 2022 and “It took us about year and a half to get the rest of the building ready for occupancy.”
Maximum occupancy for the entire building is 49 people, but 20-25 people is more ideal “to really enjoy the place,” DeHart said. “More than that would be too crowded.”
The skate park area can accommodate a maximum of four skating at the same time for safety, he said.
Funtime Action Center is open Monday through Saturday from 2 p.m. to 8 p.m. and is also available to book for private parties, including on Sundays, for groups. The cost is $4 per hour for skating, $4 per hour for virtual reality, $2 per hour for pc and console gaming, or customers can buy an all-day pass for $10 to do a mix of any activities. Membership options, including one-month, three-month, and six-month memberships, are also available. [More information is available on their Facebook page.]
DeHart said he’s been pleasantly surprised at how well business is going already after being open just weeks. “I’ve been surprised. We’ve barely had any days without customers. Since we’ve opened, it’s actually been pretty busy. Things here are almost comparable to a day in Antigo, from day one.”
Groups of four to six people often come in together, but individual customers also come in alone, he said.
While the indoor skate parks aren’t DeHart’s primary source of income, they are one of his passions.
“These are side projects that me and my friends put together,” he said. While he is the sole owner of the business, his friends have been instrumental in helping and with ideas. Robert Smith was a behind-the-scenes co-founder, DeHart said.
“We started out as like a skate team back in 2007. He and I … founded the skate team and did videos like YouTube and stuff and traveled around skating … and we decided eventually to kind of create a headquarters for ourselves.”
It was really “just for fun, just getting people together and out and riding, different age groups … taking little field trips, I guess,” he said. “We got to meet some skaters around the country … We got to meet the Braille Team, they’re kind of a well-known team out in California.”
“We used to come to Merrill just to skate, to try out different skate parks and stuff, and we had some friends over here, and we heard that there was a really good skate community here,” DeHart said. Now his business is integral to that skate community and provides an opportunity for more people to explore and embrace the skating and skateboard culture here in Merrill.