WEEKEND - Rainy days produce big crowds, Pandemonium at Funspot

dLACONIA — The world's largest arcade turns into the busiest place in the Lakes Region on rainy days like the one experienced this past Wednesday when the parking lot was filled and it was wall-to-wall with people inside, so filled in fact that many had to wait on porches before they could get inside.

With more 600 games, Funspot becomes the destination of choice for tourists and locals alike whose outdoor adventure plans have been washed out and who are looking for something to keep themselves busy.

''It's an all-hands-on-deck day for us, sheer pandemonium,'' says Steve Lawton, Funspot business manger. ''Normally we have 11 people working, but on the days when we know it's going to rain we call in another 10 or so and everyone is out straight the whole day.''

On those busy days as many as 2 million redemption tickets are run through the 150 games at Funspot which reward players for their scores, creating long lines at the redemption prize center where, thanks to the marvels of modern technology, the tickets have been run through a counting machine which produces a slip of paper with the number of points earned which can be exchanged for a prize.

Funspot owner and founder Bob Lawton, 83, says that he showed up at the bill changing machine early in the morning and spent most of the day working there, making sure that things were running smoothly with those machines as well as the discount coupon machines, which provide tokens for customers.

''I never got downstairs to see how busy we were there until four in the afternoon,'' says Lawton, who says that Wednesday was the fourth rainy day this summer and that it is those kinds of days which allow Funspot to remain year-round.

''If we could have 10 days like that a summer we could fly through the winter,'' says Sandra Lawton, Bob's daughter and the assistant general manager at Funspot, who recalls that in the 1980s there was summer in when it rained every weekend and there were indeed 10 full house days.
Bob Lawton says that the Fourth of July this year was probably the busiest day ever at Funspot, and that part of a project which will see a new 5,500 square foot 18-hole indoor mini-golf course created was completed just in time for that big holiday weekend.

''We had eight of our bowling lanes closed down because we were putting in a floor for the mini-golf course on the third level and the crew from Bonnette, Page & Stone was able to complete it in time for us to reopen the lanes for the weekend.'' said Lawton.

He said that the new indoor course will replace one of Funspot's original attractions, an outdoor mini-golf course with its New Hampshire landmarks theme, which has been open since 1964.

Lawton said that several of the more famous landmarks, like the Cog Mountain Railroad, will become part of the new indoor golf center, which is slated to hold a grand opening on Nov. 8, Military Appreciation Day.

The course will be available year-round and will be self-service, with vending machines serving customers, and capable of handling as many as 500 golfers per day.

He said that the old outdoors course will be turned into a park area.

The existing indoor retro 9-hole mini-golf course will be dismantled to provide more space for arcade games.