LAKELAND, Fla. — From mini-golf to laser tag and skee ball, the Family Fun Center in Lakeland has been making generations of families smile on special days. However, this year it’s the Family Fun Center that’s blowing out the candles. They are celebrating 40 years in business.
Since the Family Fun Center opened in 1981 they’ve reached some winning milestones. More than one million slices of pizza served, more than 50 million arcade games played and more than one billion tickets won.
Former owner Scott Neslund said, “81 happened to be the year Pac-Man came out and was a huge hit so that kind of got us started."
Forty years later Scott is still playing Pac-Man, but he’s no longer the owner, his son Brian has taken the controls. The Neslund family has owned and operated the Family Fun Center since its opening.
“It's great when somebody comes back who has been away for a while and they say, ‘you know what I used to come here as a child and I’m so glad it’s still here,’” said Brian Neslund.
Brian remembers receiving his little league trophy at the Family Fun Center. Now he’s here playing games with his own son and daughter. It’s a business built on generations.
“We’ve got parents now who came here as children and had their birthdays here and now they are having their children's birthday parties here so that is very exciting to us,” said Brian.
Brian also said it’s these loyal customers who have kept the games lighting up following the pandemic.
“To continue a legacy and then realize this might be the end of it was a little bit gut-wrenching,” said Brian. “We are just very grateful to the community for coming out and supporting us.”
The Family Fun Center isn’t all play. They’ve also provided work to more than 1,500 employees over the years.
“Many of which were first-time jobs so we really enjoyed showing people how to work their first job and teaching them some life skills over these 40 years,” said Brian.
While some of these employees don’t ever want to leave, like John Watkins.
“Started right out of high school, came in, worked at the counters, worked all the way up to management,” said Watkins. “Met my wife here quite a few years ago.”
There’s also a chance Brian’s own children will help keep the business running and in the family for another 40 years.
“They’re ready right now, they love it,” said Brian.
Throughout the year the Family Fun Center will be holding various promotions and special events, for more information go to Family Fun Center's website.