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TWO 'KID BUSINESS' TENANTS TO OPEN IN BLASDELL'S BJ'S PLAZA

A long-vacant indoor playground in Blasdell will soon come back to life with two new "kid business" tenants.

The former Discovery Zone Fun Center complex at 4408 Milestrip Road in the BJ's Plaza will be the new home of a Chuck E. Cheese's restaurant and arcade, and a Priceless Kids retail store. Both businesses are now under construction with openings slated for early 2000.

The Chuck E. Cheese's restaurant enters the picture via its parent company's purchase of 21 corporately-run and leased Discovery Zone locations from their bankrupt owner. The Blasdell site is one of those Irving, Texas-based CEC Entertainment acquired as part of the $19 million deal which was finalized in April.

CEC, which has operated a Chuck E. Cheese's eatery/arcade in 4990 Harlem Road in Amherst for more than a decade, currently controls 350 units in 44 states. The kid-targeted restaurant features food and fun for the age 2 through 12 crowd, including musical and comic entertainment by life-sized, computer-controlled characters, family-oriented games, rides and arcade-style activities.

Chuck E. Cheese's has established itself as birthday party venue favorite.

The area's second Chuck E. Cheese's will take up 13,400-square-feet of the former 18,000-square-foot Discovery Zone and employ 35 workers. It will incorporate the chain's latest entertainment options, according to Dick Houston, CEC Entertainment's vice president of marketing.

"We're really excited about our updated showrooms, which are now called Studio C. We've introduced an interactive blue screen technology which allows the kids to be part of the show," Houston said.

CEC is continuing to look at sites for additional restaurants in New York state and other parts of the country, according to the marketing executive.

"Buffalo's a good market, we could open another location up there in the future," he added.

The conversion of the Discovery Zone for new retail use leaves just one former play center sitting empty. The former Discovery Zone at 5435 Sheridan Drive in Amherst, which closed this summer, remains idle. That site was not among those purchased by CEC as it is located within a mile of the Chuck E. Cheese's in the Sheridan-Harlem Plaza.

Meanwhile, Priceless Kids, an Albany-based children's clothing chain is getting ready to open in the remaining 5,000-square-feet of the former Discovery Zone. Priceless Kids entered the Buffalo market last summer with a store at 4101 Transit Road in Clarence in the Vix Plaza. Priceless Kids offers a variety of brand name clothing and accessories, in sizes from layette through teens, at 40 to 70 percent off traditional retail prices.

Rex Burgher, a vice president with Buffalo's Benderson Development, which owns BJ's Plaza, said the signing of Chuck E. Cheese's and Priceless Kids will round out the tenant roster at the high-profile southtowns retail center.

"We're very pleased to bring in two tenants we already have a relationship with at other locations," Burgher said. "Both are first-class operators who will make the center an even greater draw."

Discovery Zone entered the Buffalo market in 1994, eventually running three of its indoor play centers, all of which are now closed. The Williamsville site was originally run by Leaps & Bounds, a competing play center operator, which was converted to Discovery Zone a few years ago.

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