SOUTH PORTLAND — “Ms. Pac Man,” “Centipede” and “Donkey Kong” are all one step closer to a new home in Knightville.
On Tuesday night, the Planning Board approved a special exemption and modified spot planning application for the proposed Portland Arcade. The approvals allow the business to operate a retro-style gaming center on the second floor of a real estate office at 22 Cottage Road.
Co-owners Christopher Perks and David Demers have already secured a five-year lease for the space, which belongs to City Councilor Melissa Linscott.
The board passed the exemption 4-0 (with members Susan Hassan, Erick Giles and Kathleen Phillips absent), with the only major condition that Portland Arcade limit its hours of operation to Sunday 10 a.m.-9 p.m., Monday-Thursday 10 a.m.-10 p.m., and Friday and Saturday from 10 a.m.-11:45 p.m.
Perks, a former high school teacher, told the board he hopes the arcade will fill the holes left by the closings of Dream Machine and Chuck E. Cheese’s at the Maine Mall. He said a December 2013 article in The Forecaster had already stirred up local support from kids and adults alike.
The board spent much of the meeting debating Perks’ request that the arcade be allowed to stay open until 10 p.m. most nights and until 11:45 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays, for possible chem-free teen nights, 17-plus radio events, and bands.
Perks asserted that the late-night hours for the arcade will not negatively impact the Knightville area, which he described as an up-and-coming commercial center that still has little activity that late at night.
“We love Knightville, and we really want to provide something that diversifies the family nature of this part of town,” he said.
He added, “We really want to be flexible to clients and be respectful of this great little part of the city.”
Board members questioned whether the arcade would make too much noise for nearby businesses during the day and for residents at night.
“We want you to be successful, and quiet,” board member Caroline Hendry said.
But she also added, “Actually, a little action would be a good idea.”
Perks said he hopes to depart from traditional arcade structure by having customers pay an entry fee of $5 for two or three hours of unlimited play, rather than having them buy tokens or use quarters for each game.
He estimated that, although his space will comfortably hold around 50 gamers, he would likely cap entry at around 35 people at a time, so players will not have to wait in long lines. And as for the noise, Perks said he hopes that building insulation would suffice.
“This is (our) first venture; we are learning a lot along the way,” he said.
Following the Board’s approval, Perks and Demers tentatively plan to open on April 21, but are hopeful they can open their doors before April school vacation week.
Board members also noted the building’s proximity to City Hall, which is across the street.
“The city manager looks right out that window at your building,” Planning and Development Director Tex Haeuser joked.