Jeri and Jay Mackley of La Grande are forging ahead with their plans for a recreation center in La Grande, beginning remodeling of the former Elks Lodge and planning a Halloween event to raise money to keep the improvements going.
Submitted photo Kevin Donaldson of La Grande Paint and Glass installs a window pane at the former Elks Lodge, now known as the Maridell Center. Facade renovations include replacing wooden panels in the lower portion of the window frames with glass.
Jeri Mackley said the building, at Washington Avenue and Depot Street, is renamed the Maridell Center and will eventually house an ice skating rink, laser tag arena, mini-golf course, snack bar, pool tables, a sports and video game lounge, and more.
“La Grande needs a wholesome place where young and old alike can go to socialize and have fun,” she said. “This gaping hole in our beautiful little town, made larger by the recent loss of The Rock Bowling and Family Fun Center, will soon be filled.”
The Mackleys bought the massive building from the Elks in April. One of the first orders of business was to give the place a new name, Mackley said.
“It’s a fresh new name for a new purpose,” she said. “We wanted something with no connotations to anything else so we could make our own reputation.”
Renovations are already under way. The Mackleys plan to raise some money for future improvements by moving their well-known Halloween event, the Night Fright Haunted House, to the center this year.
The Haunted House is an elaborate Halloween attraction in which guests are led through a maze and encounter all sorts of spooky atmospheres and frightening creatures. Last October in Union, the Haunted House pulled in nearly 3,000 visitors, according to Mackley.
The year, the attraction moves to La Grande, with the entire 28,000 square feet of the Maridell Center as the playground.
The Night Fright Haunted House will be open every Friday and Saturday of October starting on the eighth from 7:00 – 10:00pm, as well as Wednesday and Thursday of the last week of the month.
“This is the big kick-off,” Mackley said, “The money we earn for this will go right into funding the ice-skating, laser tag, mini-golf, and other attractions we plan on building here in La Grande.”
Mackley said she thinks ice skating will be a big hit once the center is operational.
“Whenever I mention it to someone for the first time, their eyes light up,” she said.
The “ice” Mackley plans to use is not really ice at all. It’s a synthetic material meant to mimic the same properties of ice.
Made from a high-density polyethylene plastic, the ice is specially designed for skating using normal, metal-bladed ice skates.
“Because it’s synthetic the resistance is higher, but a lot of it depends on the quality of the synthetic ice,” said Mackley. “It comes very close to the real thing but without the cost and hassle that real ice brings.”
Mackley plans on installing the synthetic ice on the second floor of the Maridell Center, with tentative plans to open for business sometime in 2011.
The building has a large hall and full sized kitchen that’s available for rent to the public, and is already being utilized for concerts, reunions, meetings, and other events.
Local contractors have already made significant remodeling progress. Thanks in part to a $7,500 grant from the City of La Grande’s Urban Renewal Agency Building Facade Grant program, the exterior is undergoing a much needed face-lift.
“This facade renewal is helping to enhance the downtown scenery along Washington and Depot, Mackley said.
Mackley said she is determined to brand the Maridell Center as a family-friendly environment.
“I want this to be a place where parents feel safe to bring their kids, but also a place where adults can come and enjoy themselves and utilize the space as well, with a feeling of quality,” she said.
As a result alcohol will no longer be served at the building except for those times when guests have exclusively rented the main banquet hall and bar areas.
The Benevolent and Protective Order of the Elks, or BPOE, built the lodge number 433 on Washington Avenue in La Grande in 1914.
Originally the building had three upper floors and the basement contained a swimming pool. The pool was eventually filled in and converted into a dining hall.
Then, in 1970, an electrical issue caused a fire that destroyed most of the third floor. The building was remodeled in 1971-72. The new design included the addition of the main banquet hall, adding substantially to the square feet of the building.
As the years passed, the Elks’ numbers have dwindled, but their Charter still remains, as does the memory of their many charitable contributions to the city and its people.
Mackley said she plans to keep the memory of the Elks alive by maintaining a display case commemorating their history and contributions to La Grande.
“A large part of their contribution to the city has come through the original construction of the lodge itself,” she said. “That potential is now being harnessed anew, ensuring that their legacy will continue to grow and their goodwill remembered by future generations.”