Skillz offers entertainment for people of all ages (slideshow 2)
By Kyle Vuille
Ranger-Review Staff Writer
In the past month, window shoppers and folks driving down Merrill Avenue may have seen “Skillz” written in fluorescent colored paint in a window of the historic Dion building.
Skillz Indoor Entertainment is the name of the new business that has piqued the curiosity of many. The indoor entertainment business features a full 18-hole glow-in-the-dark putt putt course, a golf simulator and numerous virtual reality games.
The owner of Skillz, Ryan Barrows, saw a void in the Glendive community for things to do for the younger generations and began constructing his business in October.
“There’s just a lack of stuff to do, especially for the young generations,” Barrows said. “People around here are leaving for other places because those other places have stuff to do.”
Barrows said his business has already blossomed into a hang out spot for the younger kids looking for something to do as well as a spot in town for birthday parties and fun date nights.
“There’s not too many places in town to have a kid’s birthday party so I thought we’d get put in the rotation of places in town,” Barrows said.
Barrows said given his years and years of playing golf, which he did professionally, his main focus for the business was the golf simulators and giving people the opportunity to hit golf balls in the winter.
“You can find the (golf) simulators at any golf shop, but you can’t play a whole course,” Barrows said. “It’s usually just to test clubs.”
The golf simulator offers an 18-hole round of golf, but instead of spending four hours on a real course chasing your ball, the simulator will teleport you to your ball. Barrows said a full round on the simulator usually takes 30-45 minutes.
He added he has been talking to Dawson Community College about starting a golf class for the students as one of their elective classes starting the new semester in January.
“Learning how to play and swing a club in January would be pretty cool,” Barrows said.
In addition to the golf simulator, Barrows’ three virtual reality booths housed on the ground floor of Skillz are capable of 50-60 games or simululations which Barrows is using to help fight the negative stigma among parents about video games.
“The best way a parent put it, it’s more than a video game because you’re jumping and rolling,” Barrows said.
Barrows said he tries out the VR games after purchasing them and has worked up a sweat playing himself.
“There’s a little bit of something for everyone,” Barrows said. “Anyone from age 5 to age 85, there’s something and they all enjoy it.”
Barrows highlighted one of the more educational simulators where the participant experiences the moon landing alongside Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin.
Prices for the VR vary by time of use. For a mini VR experience, it’s $5, $10 for 15 minutes, $15 for 30 minutes and $25 for an hour.
When one walks into the downstairs of Skillz, it feels like one just stepped into a full on rave with the glow in the dark putt putt course Barrows and community members crafted themselves in October.
With no template or plan, Barrows said he just took a roll of tape and started taping off the sections.
Barrows said it was a challenge to build the course with what available room he had and he even utilized the load bearing posts to build obstacles within the course.
According to Barrows, about half of the wood came from reclaimed wood found while Barrows and his crew were cleaning the downstairs of the building.
He added one of his favorite things in the whole building are the bar stools found on the ground floor that were made from old planks of wood with people’s names carved into them.
“A lot of the buildings history is still here,” Barrows said.
Barrows emphasized that during the construction stage, he researched if there was another glow in the dark putt putt course in the state of Montana and according to him, he couldn’t find another one like its kind, making Skillz the only glow in the dark putt putt course in the state.
It is $6 per person for a round of putt putt and $9 per person for two rounds.
Barrows also mentioned very young children (toddlers) can play putt putt for free. He wants to give everyone a chance to see what a great experience Skillz offers.
Barrows also pointed out something special for customers, particularly those who have birthday parties at Skillz. Downstairs along one of the walls of the putt putt course, there are painted hands of the birthday boys and girls along with their birthday.
Barrows said so far his business has been well received by the community and he’s looking forward to seeing what the future holds for Skillz Indoor Entertainment.
What Barrows finds the most special about his business is the opportunity he has given kids who struggle with normal social situations and can come meet like minded kids. He said these kids may not have many friends or a great family to go home to so Skillz is a safe place for them after school.
“These kids who struggle with the social aspect suffer sometimes, but they can come here and come out of their shell,” Barrows said.
Skillz, located at 108 South Merrill Ave., is open Monday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday from 11:30 a.m. until 10 p.m. Sunday hours are 11:30 a.m. until 8 p.m. For more information, call 377-8264.
Reach Kyle Vuille at firstname.lastname@example.org.