Michele Hall is relaxing, sitting on a bench in the Little Bigg Town section of the Bigg City Family Fun Center, as her two children indulge in a variety of arcade games.
It's her first visit to the facility, and she arrived with some skepticism.
"I've heard from other parents that this is no place for kids under 10 years old, and even early teens," she says.
How does a place perhaps best-known for bowling, go-karts, laser tag and a pizza buffet start to get that kind of reputation?
Bigg City, a 152,000-square-foot-facility on Mark Dabling Boulevard, opened about two years ago. When family entertainment centers Champions, Joyrides and Mountasia closed in the last year, it quickly became the only big-time amusement center serving the greater Colorado Springs area.
Today, center representatives stress they have four main destinations within one location: Bigg City Pizza Buffet, Bigg City Lanes, Bigg City Event Center and the Mr. Biggs Family Entertainment Center.
To the public, though, it's still just one big entertainment facility. And that's where things get complicated.
'A missed opportunity'
Most of the time, the Bigg City complex does live up to a positive and healthy-family billing and almost to a fault.
Take, for instance, an example from this past March. When rock radio station 94.3 KILO-FM called Bigg City to set up a bowling function with metal band Mastodon, the station's managers thought there wouldn't be a problem. The idea was to have the band play a few games of bowling and enjoy some pizza with a handful of lucky fans before its sold-out concert at The Black Sheep that night.
"We've done similar functions with other bands, such as Three Days Grace and Sevendust, at their facilities," says Ross Ford, KILO's morning DJ and program director.
Truth be told, Mastodon is far from the stereotypical heavy metal band. The group's 2004 album, Leviathan, focuses around a Moby Dick plotline. Its 2006 effort, Blood Mountain, is similarly fantastical, dealing with mythical creatures living on an imaginary peak.
"If you just get past the title of their album, and really listen to their music, you can understand that these are some really intelligent guys," Ford says. "It really was a missed opportunity for the fans and Bigg City."
Bigg City officials now say that the cancellation wasn't because Mastodon was bad for their family image. Instead, they maintain, it was because of a conflict in scheduling with their overbooked bowling alley.
"We had another group that booked that night, and we just didn't have the room," says Matt Van Auken, Bigg City's vice president of operations. "We called them that same day and told them we couldn't do the event."
Ford says that just isn't the case. He says his station was originally told that another group had booked some of the Bigg City Lanes, but that a number of them would remain open for the Mastodon event.
It wasn't until after Bigg City requested an address for Mastodon's Web site that the venue canceled on KILO.
Furthermore, an e-mail sent to KILO's Ford from Van Auken's secretary, in direct regard to the Mastodon bowling event, reads "... we like to keep our name recognition associated with family fun."
'Dirty and sexual'
The Mastodon example, as a standalone, might not be worth questioning. But now, three months after canceling on KILO, the Bigg City Event Center is welcoming for the second time an organization called Asylum Championship Wrestling.
Known as ACW to most, the live pro wrestling organization touts that it's "Explicit & Proud!" The ACW Web site brandishes a "shit talk forum" and promotes its June 29 "Blood, Sweat and Beers" event with the line, "THE INSANITY & BRUTALITY RETURNS [sic]!".
By hosting ACW, is Bigg City shunning the family image it's worked so hard to protect? Van Auken's answer: No.
"There are a lot of families that will surprisingly come," he says. "Bigg City is for business; we have no problem with the event. It's entertainment."
Hall, a mother of five, doesn't understand Bigg City's logic. She says her kids listen to Mastodon, and she, too, has heard some of the band's lyrics.
"ACW and Mastodon aren't even in the same boat," she says. "[Mastodon's] songs are non-violent, and about medieval things. Wrestling is dirty and sexual. It'll raise the testosterone in children."
Van Auken is again quick to defend his organization. He says he wants people to understand that the Bigg City Events Center is a separate entity from the Bigg City Family Fun Center. And he insists that hosting wrestling matches under the same huge roof doesn't hurt his brand's family image.
"We rent to a number of different promoters," he says. "The event center is a separate business, but we all just share the same warehouse." firstname.lastname@example.org
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