Budget airline buys former Marsh store

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Empty for a dozen years, the former Marsh supermarket on Maplecrest Road has a new owner, Las Vegas-based budget airline Allegiant, which plans to use it to create a family entertainment center.

Allegiant launched the “pilot” leisure program with centers in Clearfield, Utah and Warren, Mich., Those are currently under construction and slated to open late this year or early next year.

Fort Wayne will be the third site for the new leisure-oriented business. Dubbed G4 Complete Entertainment and abbreviated as “G-force,” the name was drawn from Allegiant’s airline code, G4. The International Air Transport Association assigns two-character codes to designate each of the world’s airlines.

Like Fort Wayne, the Utah and Michigan locations are using empty space formerly occupied by big box retailers, Allegiant said in a press release announcing its new leisure business a few months ago.

The Maplecrest Marsh store, built in 2003, marked the grocer’s return to Fort Wayne after an absence of several decades. In an homage to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, the store’s unusual design featured aisles that ran in a circle, with various departments spun off around the sides.

The grocer, which years later filed bankruptcy and went out of business, couldn’t make a success of its single Fort Wayne store and closed it in 2006. The store’s unusual design, which also featured ceiling heights that varied from one part of the building to the next, made it a hard sell for other potential users and so the building stood vacant.

The G4CE leisure centers will feature a variety of activities for all ages, from go-karts, laser tag and virtual reality simulators to full-featured arcades, mini golf, bowling and fast casual dining. The initiative aims to enhance and expand Allegiant’s focus on value-conscious leisure entertainment for its customers — whether that means traveling on vacation, or simply a family night out in the neighborhood, the company said. Each center is expected to employ about 100 people.

“With a focus on family entertainment that’s affordable, fun and creates lasting memories, we believe G4CE will prove to be a great addition to Allegiant’s leisure portfolio,” said Maurice Gallagher Jr., Allegiant chairman and CEO, in the release. “Providing unique recreational opportunities for our customers in their hometown complements the vacation-focused offerings that have been Allegiant’s hallmark. At the same time, it’s an opportunity to introduce G4CE customers to the airline, building ‘staycations’ into future vacations.”

Allegiant is also evaluating other locations for potential future growth.

Specializing in leisure travel, Allegiant serves Fort Wayne International Airport with flights to popular vacation destinations: Phoenix, Myrtle Beach, Punta Gorda, St. Petersburg and Daytona Beach. But at the same time, the company noted, leisure fliers tend to travel far less often than the business travelers primarily courted by other airlines. Having G4CE locations in home communities will provide more opportunities for Allegiant to engage regularly with its customers, and at the same time bring airline synergies benefiting G4CE patrons — including special travel promotions and opportunities to earn and redeem points via the Allegiant World MasterCard.

The 65,000 square-foot Marsh building at 7301 Maplecrest Road was constructed specifically for the grocer, which signed a 20-year lease. The company continued to make lease payments for a few years after it abandoned the building, which is adjacent to a small strip center whose tenants include Max Fitness.

Neal Bowman, of Sturges Property Group, handled the sale for the owner, Donya Partners LLC.

This story originally appeared in our sister publication, Greater Fort Wayne Business Weekly.