Tri-City families have a brand new Chuck E. Cheese’s to call their own.
After 36 years near the Richland Wye, the family-owned, family-friendly restaurant reopened in a new custom-built restaurant Sunday near Vista Field in Kennewick.
The new restaurant has been open since Sept. 15, but the official grand opening will be held Oct. 1.
Owner John Corbin said the family invested $4 million, including $1 million to purchase the site from the Kennewick Irrigation District, to construct a new home at 6340 W. Rio Grande Ave.
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It was time to move the business to a building the family owns and controls, he said.
As a tenant in the old building, the Corbins had to put in repair requests to a landlord, a sometimes frustrating experience.
“Being your own landlord is better if you can,” Corbin said.
Corbin considered locations throughout the Tri-Cities, including Richland’s Queensgate. Corbin said he wanted a central spot that would appeal to visitors from the entire community.
“Our demographic is kids,” he said.
Chuck E. Cheese’s wanted to be part of the redevelopment of Vista Field, the former airport being redeveloped as a town center mixed-use development. Nearby Lawrence Scott Park and its extensive sports field was another lure.
Summer is a slow season for the pizza-and-entertainment business. Corbin said he hopes being close to the ball fields will bring in sports teams during the summer.
Regardless, the family is betting on the staying power of a restaurant that caters to families with children.
“You buy land if you think you’re going to be in business for a long time,” Corbin said.
The new Kennewick location is based on prototypes developed by Texas-based C.T. Chang and Associates. W.McKay Construction of Kennewick was the contractor.
The layout is open from one end to the other, including the kitchen.
“We really wanted a place where we could have a big, open concept,” Corbin said. Customers will be able to watch their pizzas being prepared.
The new building boasts new technology as well. Customers get a beeper when they order to alert them when their food is ready.
Corbin said the approach is suited to Chuck E. Cheese’s, where guest are often playing with their kids and don’t see their meal being delivered.
“This way, you know your food is ready,” he said.
Chuck E. Cheese’s reintroduced beer and wine as well, after discontinuing alcohol sales about 15 years ago. The restaurant has six taps and will offer a rotating list of local IPAs, Mexican beers, cider and kombucha, all by demand.
In a nod to the family focus, there is a two-drink limit.
TVs will show sports games, including the Seahawks.
There is a mix of new and old games, but the animated characters did not make the move.
Corbin said the animatronics were outdated and too expensive to maintain to warrant inclusion in the new spot.
There are no plans to open any additional Chuck E. Cheese’s locations in the Tri-Cities. The restaurant employs about 50 people.
The Corbins operate the restaurant under a franchise agreement with Irving, Texas-based CEC Entertainment Inc., which is majority owned by investment funds associated with Apollo Global Management LLC, a $250 billion private equity firm that trades on the New York Stock Exchange under the symbol APO.
CEC operates 512 of the 577 Chuck E. Cheese locations in the U.S. and Canada. Franchisees like the Corbins run the rest.
Local business hours are 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., Mondays to Thursdays, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Fridays, 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. Saturdays and 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sundays. The phone number is 509-735-8346.
Follow the local Chuck E. Cheese’s on Facebook @ChuchECheesesRichland
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