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Project gives former Sears store new lease on life

MAKING PLANS — Celebrating plans for a multi-million dollar family entertainment center at the Fort Steuben Mall Friday were, from left, Cedar One Owner/Broker Joe Luckino; Fort Steuben Mall Manager Susan Westling-Huff; Rachel and Mike Ford, who currently manage the Ferguson Group’s Alliance arcade; Ron Ferguson; Bob Ferguson; Lisa Ferguson and Kloe Olivo, a family friend and game tester. -- Linda Harris

STEUBENVILLE — The Ferguson Group has officially taken possession of the former Sears building at the Fort Steuben Mall, the first step in an ambitious plan to transform the property into a massive family fun center.

Family and friends gathered at the site Friday to celebrate the multi-million dollar investment.

“It’s nice to think you’re doing something to help your community,” Lisa Ferguson said. “It’s nice when you can give back.”

Ron Ferguson, the marketing director for the venture, said the deal included some adjacent spaces, so they’ll have well over 125,000 square feet of floor space to fill with games and attractions for all ages. “A multi-million dollar investment, that’s the way to say it right now,” he said. “We’ll have over $1 million invested in games alone.”

Exactly what games they’ll bring in hasn’t been decided: While go-karts, bumper cars and laser tag are high on the list, Mrs. Ferguson said the final decision will be made after a trade show in Atlanta next month where the “latest and greatest” attractions will debut.

“Some of the stuff we’re going to be looking at isn’t even out yet in the industry, it’s that new.”

She said they’re planning party rooms to accommodate everything from birthdays, bachelor parties and baby showers to corporate events. Their plans also include a restaurant, and they’ve already applied for a liquor license.

“It’s exciting to bring something like this to your community, so people don’t have to drive all the way to Pittsburgh for it,” she added.

Big as it is, she figures the building will fill up fast once they start bringing the attractions in.

“We needed a building this size for indoor attractions,” she said, adding they’ve been asking their Facebook followers to weigh in on what kinds of activities they’d like to see in the space.

She pointed out they already have a foot in the entertainment business, an arcade in Alliance, “but this will be an arcade with attractions.”

“It’s going to be a long project,” she said. “It will be next spring before we open.”

Family friend Kloe Olivo made no secret of her hope to be the official attraction-tester.

“I think it will be good for the community, especially for kids my age,” she said.

Mrs. Ferguson agreed, saying she “looks forward to kids having somewhere to come and enjoy themselves.”

“We’re from here, we love it here,” Ron Ferguson agreed. “There’s no better place to raise a family. We wanted to make sure we invested here.”

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