Township board approves expansion of C.J. Barrymore’s

By: Nick Mordowanec | Fraser - Clinton Township Chronicle | Published October 7, 2015

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CLINTON TOWNSHIP — C.J. Barrymore’s owner Rick Iceberg said his Clinton Township-based entertainment venue must “change or die,” leading to plenty of change within the next couple of years.

This is due to the Sept. 21 unanimous approval by the Clinton Township Board of Trustees to grant a special land use expansion to C.J. Barrymore’s in terms of new entertainment within the community business district on Hall Road.

As part of the venue’s growth and development, a five-phase plan is in place to install and overhaul attractions including a 36-foot-tall Zyklon-Loop roller coaster, a 110-foot-high zip line, a 55-foot-tall wooden go-kart track called the Cyclone Cart Coaster, a 65-foot-tall drop tower and a three-story, 40-foot building renovation.

These additions will add to the 16 attractions that already exist on the property, including a golf dome, four go-kart tracks, batting cages, miniature golf, bumper boats, bowling, an arcade and laser tag.

“(C.J. Barrymore’s) has expanded very slowly over the years. This is a big move for them,” Township Supervisor Bob Cannon said. “I have watched Mr. Iceberg and his partners very carefully do things that benefit the community. He’s been a great community partner, a great parks and rec partner, and we have had just a wonderful relationship through the years.

“I know this is a big step for them.”

Iceberg explained the history of Barrymore’s, which has been in its same spot for 41 years and was officially zoned in 1981.

Back then, the venue only had a driving range and one go-kart track. Decades later, it’s a household name in in the area.

“We’re considered one of the top family entertainment centers in the United States,” Iceberg said. “Ours is one of the biggest, one of the best, and one of the best-designed ones. And we constantly are used as a reference by our industry peers. It’s a first-class presentation.”

He mentioned the need to diversify and “add spokes to the wheel” to keep people between the ages of 4 and 80 interested. The venue hosts numerous annual events for corporations, schools, family reunions, baby showers, rehearsal dinners, teams and more.

Every spring, more than 30,000 students from hundreds of schools visit, and that’s on top of the 2,600 birthday parties hosted every year.

Iceberg mentioned a strong core of employees that are the backbone of daily operations, including assistants with 14 years of experience to managers that have been around 33 years. The management team experiences very little attrition.

He concluded by saying that the community strongly supports the business’s daily operations, which in turn result in millions more dollars invested in the township by visitors. It is an operation that bends over backward to meet requirements, he said.

“All of the new additions get in the spirit of what we have right now,” Iceberg said. “This will help us draw from the existing 25-mile radius all the way out to 50 miles. We think that people from Lansing and other areas around southeast Michigan and the center of the state will drive the hour or two to get here, and that not only enhances Barrymore’s, but it also improves Clinton Township.

“We’re going to bring more people with this diversity.”

Not everyone was happy with the expansion, though.

Jim Causley Jr. has a facility on Hall Road and does not want his own business to be compromised.

“I’m objecting to this special land use request for the reasons outlined: I’ve owned this property — it will be 10 years in December — I have never had a modified offer to purchase it,” Causley Jr. said. “I will say that based on the criteria in my letter, the Barrymore company is attempting to build an amusement park.”

However, the Board of Trustees saw things differently.

Trustee Ken Pearl said he conducted his own research regarding how each new addition would impact the land and surrounding area, and said he found nothing egregious.

“The property is well-kept. It’s definitely an asset to the community and the township and (Macomb County),” Trustee Dean Reynolds said. “There is no entertainment center like it. I don’t see the additions as being negative; I think they will be positive. They’re going to bring more people in.”

Cannon agreed, also noting how hundreds of Clinton Township high school and college students work at Barrymore’s.

“When Mr. Causley does present an argument, we all listen very carefully because of his stature and because he’s been a valued member of our community for many, many years,” Cannon said. “But I’m in agreement that we should proceed with this project. I know that our community and many surrounding communities and families are going to benefit for years to come.”

Paul Saad, a sales associate from commercial real estate agency Signature Associates, said businesses think about owning property and how the frontage on Hall Road is the most expensive piece of property. Saad said the Barrymore’s positively impacts other nearby businesses.

“From a broker standpoint, looking at the subject property of C.J. Barrymore’s and affecting the property to the west, we don’t see that at as a detriment to that property,” Saad said. “If anything, that property suffers from the frontage — it’s narrow and long. … If anything, with the traffic count, the person that buys that (property) is going to be happy with the number of cars that go up and down Hall Road because of Barrymore’s.”

With the expansion approval set, the roller coaster will be installed this fall. The zip line and wooden go-kart track will be installed in 2016, while the drop tower and building addition are expected in 2017. Iceberg said the additions will increase his staff from 250 individuals to around 325 employees.