Local leaders speak out on US-31’s growing entertainment corridor

HOLLAND TWP. – In a half-mile corridor along US-31, there is some form of entertainment for everyone.

The once empty storefronts have started to fill up. Between Felch Street and James Street, residents and tourists alike can find a host of indoor and outdoor attractions.

Area must-sees like The Lost City, a quarter-century-old arcade and laser tag center, and Nelis’ Dutch Village, an educational theme park, have been joined by companies like X-Golf and Urban Air Adventure Park in the old Westshore Shopping Center.

This fall, The Rink on James Street will reopen under a new name (RollXscape) after a complete renovation. Just across the street, Zero Latency – Michigan’s first free-roaming virtual reality hub – will open by October.

Once the shops are open, families and tourists can access golf simulators, a racing car simulator, a trampoline park, multiple arcades, mini golf, laser tag, mini bowling, an ice rink. , self-service virtual reality, newly restored carousel warrior routes – all in one day.

After:Community members discuss the use of space along US-31

After:Michigan’s first free-roaming virtual reality center opens in Holland Township

After:X-Golf Holland opens in Westshore stores

This is a big change from two years ago, when US-31 was littered with over 25 vacant showcases. At the time, residents were worried about the emergence of developments, which remained empty, rather than redeveloping existing spaces.

The business world responds to these concerns.

“It’s exciting to see the growth of family entertainment centers in our community,” said Jane Clark, president of the Michigan West Coast Chamber of Commerce.

“These companies are smart to capitalize on our local market, as well as our large visitor population. The location along US-31 is ideally located, close to the city, but also along a major transportation corridor.

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“These types of businesses are great at hiring people of all ages at affordable prices. They are a great way for families and friends to get together and have fun together at social gatherings after the pandemic.

“They will make great places for private celebrations such as birthdays and corporate events. They will add to our reputation as a great place to live and visit.

This enthusiasm was echoed by Linda Hart, Executive Director of the Holland Area Visitors Bureau.

In this 2015 Sentinel archive photo, customers skate around the former HOME Roller rink.  The rink is being redeveloped and plans to reopen as RollXscape this fall and add to the entertainment options along US-31.

“I think it’s great, to be honest,” she said. “More activities, especially activities that residents and visitors can do, only complements what we have as a community. We talk a lot about downtown, but we rely on these other community assets.

“It seems like a natural fit and progression of activities that residents and visitors can participate in. I also think it’s so important that our community reuse what we can, rather than tearing down and rebuilding. The more we can. doing it, the better. “

Over the next few months, the intersection will be joined by Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen and the Lakeshore Campus of Grand Rapids Community College. The campus was a milestone for The Shops at Westshore, which worked diligently to reuse the old mall space after it was deconstructed half a decade ago.

“Back when the Westshore Mall was there, back then these roads and parking lots were built for huge traffic,” Township Supervisor Terry Nienhuis said. “We are not concerned about the increase in traffic. These routes can handle it.

“It’s exciting to see redevelopment happening in the post-COVID days. We already have the infrastructure there, so from a township perspective it’s a win-win situation.”

The three-kilometer area surrounding the entertainment corridor is home to nine hotels. Three extended stay hotels – Home2 Suites by Hilton, StayBridge Suites by IHG, and SpringHill Suites by Marriott – have been completed in the past two years.

“These hotels have performed particularly well,” Hart said. “They have access to the north side and offer visitors the option of dining in their hotel room if they are not yet comfortable eating in a restaurant.”

Dutch Village guests stroll through Kinderboerderij, a children's farm, in June 2020. Dutch Village is one of the top local attractions and entertainment options along the US-31 corridor.

Joe Nelis, owner of Nelis’ Dutch Village, is not surprised by the transformation.

“It must have been in 1990 when we were involved in the city’s long-term development discussions,” he said. “And I remember meeting them and telling them, ‘Your entertainment hall is near the freeway. “And I feel like it’s good for everyone.

“The more density you have, even though you are competing at a certain level, contributes to the idea that, ‘If we want to have fun, we go to that area. “The downtown area is great, but there is a strong emphasis on this area for restaurants and shopping.”

The Dutch Village has been around for over 60 years. During much of this period, the park was known for its educational demonstrations and history lessons. Ten years ago, Nelis and her team decided it was time to change direction.

“We made this transition from an educational and historical attraction to a family-oriented theme park,” Nelis said.

“Nowadays you can watch wooden shoe making on YouTube. But when you have young children you realize that the number of interactions you have with them is limited. Now we are a place to create memories.”

This change was highlighted by new signage along US-31 and updated attractions, including a pirate balloon battle and a children’s farm, in addition to the traditional park demonstrations.

“Everything we do, we try to make it an experience,” said Nelis.

“It happens the second you park your car and start walking towards our driveway and lasts until you pull over into the gift shop and grab something that reminds you of the great day you had. . “

– Contact journalist Cassandra Lybrink at [email protected] Follow her on Instagram @BizHolland.


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