The Garrison family inaugurates a new entertainment center in Carthage | New

CARTHAGE, Mo. — Tom Garrison grew up in Carthage and remembers playing the old Oak Street Miniature Golf Courses around City Park. He also remembers when there were batting cages and other entertainment options for youngsters and families – and he saw many of them shut down, not to be replaced.

Tom’s wife, Cindy Garrison, said there was a lack of entertainment options for teenagers and others in Carthage, so the family is trying to do something about it.

On Friday, the family broke ground on the future G3 Family Entertainment Center, a 36,000 square foot building near the intersection of Garrison Avenue and Airport Drive on the grounds of the former Myers Park airport.

“It’s bigger than anything in this field,” Tom said. “You’ll have to drive an hour to get to something comparable. We have a big area around Carthage and the fact (that) you have to drive for fun is just not right. We raised three daughters in this town. I was born and raised here and I’ve seen it come and go. We used to have two miniature golf courses, batting cages here, and a movie theater at one time. Everything is gone and nothing has replaced it.

Representatives of the Carthage Chamber of Commerce, city officials and other business leaders joined the garrisons just off one of the long-closed airport’s remaining concrete runways under cloudy skies Friday to transform the first shovelfuls of earth for the project.

According to the chamber, since the closure of Myers Park Airport in 1997, the area has experienced significant growth.

Walmart was the first to build on the site, followed by a former hardware store that now houses a church. Lowes Home Improvement built a store in 2007 and more recently the city built Garrison Avenue from Airport Drive to George E. Phelps Boulevard to complete the first north-south connection with the park interior.

Two senior living centers and a bank have also been completed in recent years.

In 2021, the Missouri Department of Transportation constructed a roundabout at the intersection of Fairlawn Drive, Garrison Avenue, and Elk Street that largely mirrored an earlier roundabout at Fairlawn, Grand Avenue, and Airport Drive, further improving the access to Myers Park. The city paid for half the cost of this roundabout through a cost-sharing program with the state. The city also just completed widening and remodeling of the traffic circle at Garrison and George E. Phelps Boulevard.

“This project is the first of many great things to come in this area,” said Carthage City Administrator Greg Dagnan. “We are pleased with what is on the horizon in Myers Park and look forward to seeing all of the planned projects built in the area.”

Tom said this building is the first phase of construction on the 20 acres he owns between Airport Drive and George E. Phelps Boulevard and between Garrison Avenue and Missouri Street.

He said that first building will house a 24-lane bowling alley, a 4,000 square foot children’s play area, a 2,800 square foot “ninja tag obstacle course” and a restaurant. An 18-hole miniature golf course will also be built outside the building.

“At first it was Tom’s idea and I was like, wow, I don’t know,” Cindy said. “Then things fell into place and we prayed about it. Things fell into place and I was as enthusiastic as he was. Our youngest daughter, she hung out at Sonic every night after school, her entire high school career, there’s nothing for the kids to do here.

Tom said his heart was in bowling. “I love bowling. The rest is added, but my main inspiration was bowling. My wife wanted the climbing areas and it just kept growing from there, we couldn’t stop. This is the first phase of several phases.

“We have about 20 acres here and we hope to add something every year if we can, but when finished the whole acreage will be full of fun activities.”

Tom said he expected the entire project to take five phases and between five and eight years, but the first phase is expected to be completed in the fall of 2023.

“I just want everyone to have a nice, safe and healthy place to come and play and have fun, I want them to feel comfortable here,” Tom said. “I want people to be able to come and spend the whole day, so I’m going to try to furnish the whole property with fun activities. I know the first phase isn’t going to keep them busy all day, but hopefully it will keep people happy for at least half a day.

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