The new management at Yogey’s Miniature Golf & Ice Cream Parlor, a summertime tradition in Lebanon County for more than 30 years, has big plans for improving and expanding the site.
Darrin Armel has purchased the 5-acre property at 10 S. 22nd St. and, with his family, is renovating the property for reopening in late April. However, he said, once renovations to the existing facilities are complete, he will begin work on what he hopes will become a Dave & Buster’s-style family entertainment center that includes bowling, laser tag and an arcade.
Armel owned Cedar Lanes Bowling Center for about 16 years before selling the property in 2016. The former 24-lane facility at 1451 Quentin Road was torn down, he said, and replaced with a new complex of shops and offices including a Panera Bread, Chipotle Mexican Grill, Aspen Dental, UPS Store, MOD Pizza and AT&T.
Currently, Armel said, the only other public lanes in Lebanon County are at Palmyra Bowling in North Londonderry Township. That’s “kind of left a void for families and kids” in the city, he said. (Editor’s note: There is also a bowling alley in Fredericksburg, the Fredericksburg Bowling Center.)
“We had never stopped looking for a replacement, a place to rebuild a bowling center and bring that back to Lebanon,” he said. “But every time we got close, it fell apart.”
“We had looked at Yogey’s years ago,” he added. “But there’s a sewer line that runs through the center of that property, and that wasn’t going to let me build what I wanted to build.”
In the years since Cedar Lanes closed, however, Armel has learned more about the concept behind family entertainment centers such as Dave & Buster’s, and he realized 24 lanes wasn’t necessary for a successful bowling center.
“So we went back and revised the Yogey’s site and determined that we could do what we wanted to do there,” he said. “Yogey’s checked most of the boxes. … I could make this work.”
Revamping what’s there
The Yogey’s property, sometimes called Yogey’s Putt’n Cream, was listed for sale for $899,000, Armel said. He purchased it for $700,000.
The first stage of Armel’s plan is to get the existing 36-hole mini golf course and ice cream parlor ready for opening — redubbed Game Time Fun — on April 29.
The location’s former website, yogeysminigolf.com, is now redirecting to gametimefuncenter.com, which a single screen promising a relaunch soon.
Because the former owners were older and looking to retire — the property had been listed for sale for several years, Armel said — maintenance on the site had been lagging and needs some work before they can reopen.
“Right now we’re up to $100,000” in renovations costs on the golf course alone, he said.
“It’s $40,000 just to replace the astro turf,” Armel said. “For the putting surfaces, we went high-end. You can’t buy better. But they can’t install this until the temps are above 60. I’m praying for the end of the month.”
They’re also replacing exterior lighting and installing new LED signage, as well as new digital menu boards in the parlor, he said. “And there’s so much more we want to do,” he added, including new landscaping and refurbishments to the big pirate ship that stands as the centerpiece to the course.
“I have to do the things that are necessary and leave the rest for after we’re open,” Armel said. “And with the climate today, things are twice as expensive and take twice as long.
“But anybody who played on it last year and comes back this year will see it’s like night and day.”
Plans for growth
The future of the site depends, in part, on North Cornwall Township. Located across from Lebanon Valley Mall, the property is zoned highway commercial; Armel believes most of his plans fit in with zoning regulations and won’t require any variances or special exceptions from the township.
Except for one issue: parking.
Armel expects to begin work on architectural designs for the site by early summer, after which they’ll know exactly how much parking is required for the new facilities.
It’s possible, he said, he’ll have to buy additional land or acquire an easement from a neighboring landowner to accommodate parking requirements. It’s also possible, he said, that an oversized stormwater retention pond could be reconfigured to allow more parking on site.
He expects the process to get township approvals and permits will take six to eight months.
“Anything that has to do with families and kids, they’re usually all for it,” he said. “I’m confident they’ll be eager to see this happen.”
Best-case scenario, he said, would see the new facility open for business sometime in 2024.
As for new construction, Armel said the concept includes a 15,000- to 16,000-square-foot building to house 12 to 14 bowling lanes, a 5,000- to 6,000-square-foot laser tag facility, and another 3,000 to 4,000 square feet for an arcade. Everything — except for the mini golf — will be under one roof, he said.
The existing ice cream parlor, which is a one-story structure of nearly 2,500 square feet, may end up being a “casualty of war” as plans develop, Armel said. If the parlor has to come down, he said, it and additional food service, such as pizza and hot dogs, will be housed in the main entertainment facility.
The parlor sells exclusively Hershey ice cream, he noted. “I like that relationship, we want to maintain that.”
Speaking of relationships, Armel said his two daughters — Kiara, a Cedar Crest High School senior, and Ashley, a Cedar Crest freshman — will be working with him at the complex.
“This is to help set them up,” he said. “When we had the bowling center, they loved it.”
They’re both pretty excited about the new venture, Armel added. “When we purchased the place, we went out there the very next day to start cleaning up, painting, that sort of thing.”
Currently, Armel noted, the business is seasonal, usually open six or seven months out of the year. Once the new complex is built, he said, he expects it to be a year-round operation.
Initially, he said he plans to hire just a handful of employees to staff the golf course and ice cream parlor. Eventually, he expects to need maybe two dozen workers on site.
“We’re pretty excited about it,” he said.
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An earlier version of this article stated that Yogey’s is in North Lebanon Township. It is actually in North Cornwall Township. We sincerely regret the error.