Santa Barbara’s Paseo Nuevo Mall Bids Adieu to Aloha Fun Center

Roller-Skating Rink, Laser Tag, and Arcade No Longer Coming to Former Macy’s Building

Credit: Paul Wellman (file)

Paseo Nuevo’s mall is not getting the Aloha Fun Center that had been advertised to come to Santa Barbara since last year. The roller skating, laser tag, and arcade amalgamation that was set to open on the ground floor of the former Macy’s building downtown hit multiple snags in the development process, and the owners have since let their lease expire. 

The project reportedly hit some road bumps while trying to adapt the space to hold more people. The owners were met with obstacles in the form of adding bathrooms and making structural adjustments to the former department store, which would have required a lot of work for the family fun center to meet state building code requirements. 

Aloha’s webpage for their Santa Barbara location is still up, showing a pricing menu for their proposed activities with a large, red “COMING SOON!” stamp laid over it, as well as an events calendar that remains devoid of events. The Bay Area–based group had even made plans for hiring events back in December.

“I’m disappointed to learn that the Aloha Fun Center won’t be moving forward in the Macy’s building, though I recognize it is a difficult and complicated undertaking to transition that space for new use,” said Meagan Harmon, the City Council representative for District 6, which includes the downtown corridor. 

Talk around what may potentially fill the empty space in the building, which has not seen long-term residency since Macy’s closed down in 2017, is decidedly less fun than what was announced to be “coming soon” on Aloha Fun Center’s social media accounts and website last year. What seems to be in the works is office space, including rumors of Sonos potentially moving in on the third floor. 

Hayes Commercial Group is listing the property for lease as the “Ortega Building,” as a “three-story structure … undergoing complete renovation for delivery in 2022.” Their listing alludes to the potential use of the space for commercial offices, saying, “Amazon, PayPal, Sonos, and 65 other tech companies have offices in downtown Santa Barbara, where the coastal city lifestyle will help any tenant attract top-tier talent.”

Harmon says that, if it were her choice, she would like to see the space prioritized as housing for the downtown workforce, but acknowledges that there are many challenges standing in the way of reconfiguring the former Macy’s building for such uses. “Ultimately,” she said, “whatever is done there must be community-focused. Filling that space and others like it wisely is critical to bringing life downtown and ensuring State Street’s long-term success.” 

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