Proposed center to offer family entertainment

Development enters final project phase

An effort to create a family entertainment center with activities such as roller skating and Go-Karts is coming together for local entrepreneur Larry “French” Brown.

Brown said he is seeking additional investors but is pleased with the support already gained over the past 4½ years for the proposed center, to be called Masquerades.

“We’re in the final financing phase,” Brown said. “We’ve got everything in place. We’ve just got to get the additional funding to bring it to life.”

The total project is expected to cost around $7 million.

“With everything going on in the world, I just want to bring back a safe environment for families,” Brown said. “The feedback we’ve gotten is a lot of people want this.”

Currently, two sites are being considered for the center. One is an existing building in central Minot that would be renovated. Another is land for new construction on Minot’s north edge, near the intersection of U.S. Highway 83 and the Bypass.

Designed at 86,000 square feet, the center would be the largest of its type in the Midwest, according to Brown and Masquerades’ general manager, Crystal Shorb. They are going large because they believe people will travel to enjoy a facility of this type, bringing regional and out-of-state dollars into the community.

Brown said a need for more activities for youth and families in Minot led him to envision Masquerades. Plans for the center in addition to a large roller skating rink and a Go-Kart track include arcade games, online video gaming and a limited food service. The center will serve what Brown called typical movie theater food, with weekly specials, slushies and ice cream.

Along with a mezzanine overlooking the rink, there will be four rooms for private parties and a VIP room.

A three-tiered Skate Club would be created with its own locker room, special events and center privileges. The proposed center has pre-approval to join the National Roller Skating Association, based on its planned rink size and the region’s population.

Brown also wants to work with other Minot entities to offer enhancements such as hotel discounts, online gaming tournaments and special youth activities involving celebrities in town for various events. It will open its doors to school field trips and summer camp programs.

The goal is for the center to offer short-term childcare for parents who want to drop their children off to enjoy the activities for a couple of hours. He expects to have select personnel with childcare training who will be able to work with the children. The expectation is the center will employ about 30 people. Its monitoring would include security scanning at the entrance.

How quickly the center comes to fruition will depend on the time needed to close out financing and whether the final decision is to renovate or build. Brown has been keeping the public updated on Facebook and the Masquerades website.

Brown is an Air Force veteran, having come to Minot in 1997 on his first assignment. He was stationed at Minot Air Force Base for over a decade and returned to Minot about 11 years ago after retiring from the military. He has experience in public relations and in running an entertainment promotional company. He currently works for an area fuel company and is a high school basketball referee.

Shorb has been involved in management of a variety of business types.

Brown explained the center’s name, Masquerades, captures the sensual stimulation of a variety of activities taking place in the center. It might be a concert, a party, a guest DJ or a scavenger hunt occurring along with the other venue activities, he said.

“I’m from New Orleans and part Creole. The name Masquerades is a derivative of the feeling when you come into New Orleans,” he said. “You feel all kinds of things, all kinds of vibes. So underneath this roof, there’s going to be multiple things going on.”


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