Do you remember the Grand Prix? It used to be at 2087 Main Street in Tewksbury. It had that giant race track out back?
Well, if you don't, maybe you remember the boarded up, broken window, run down building that used to be across from the Knights of Columbus for about a decade.
When I was younger it was "THE" spot to be seen. It was awesome back in the day. Go Karts, games, air hockey and a great arcade. Matter of fact, I think an old friend of mine Steve S. might still hold the all time record in the video game "Killer Instinct". ( Steve you were amazing at that game..) It was that kind of place where people would always meet up, play some games and hang out.
So when Merrimack Valley Pavilion was built, you can imagine the expectations were high around Tewksbury. I have been to a ton of birthday parties there with my kids and they always do a good job. I recently sat down with Maria Dankens, Event Coordinator extraordinaire to talk about MVP.
Hollie Gonzalez - How long has MVP been here in town now?
Maria Dankens - About 2 and half years now. It opened in January 2013
HG - What does MVP have to offer?
MD - Well, there is so much. Besides awesome birthday party packages, an 18 hole mini golf course, a dual level laser tag course, over 20 arcade games, and plenty of food. We offer Richardson's ice cream, with a make your own sundae bar, Richie's Slush, pizza, and many other appetizers such as chicken wings, chicken fingers, and mozzarella sticks.
HG - Are there any new expansions, or ideas headed to MVP?
MD - MVP is bringing the outdoor experience to the next level! We will be opening a new ropes course! It has 12 obstacles to encounter and children from ages 4 to 12 years old can play. They will of course be harnessed in for safety. No reservations will be needed as it will be a first come first serve adventure.
HG - What's it like to have a business in Tewksbury?
MD - The owners Gary Brown, Steve Russo & Billy D'Orlando live in Tewksbury. They find it very rewarding to give back to the town they live in and their kids go to school in. They love that they have created a fun and safe place for kids to go. We have a great location with easy access from any direction.
HG - In what ways does MVP give back to the community?
MD - We sponsor so many things here. Every time a school needs someone to help them with a location, or venue for their activity, we are always ready to step up. We always give a percent of our sales to whatever activity uses us for their event or fundraiser. We provide a safe place for the kids to trick or treat at Halloween. We donated ice cream for local schools ice cream socials, and have done car washes for the high school. We work with Beep for the Cure to help the Susan G. Komen Foundation and have done Liam Nation in the past. A Boston Strong lemonade stand was held in our parking lot by three little boys a few years ago. Also, we work with Boutiettes Auto Body next door for Veterans & Troops fundraisers where 100% of the proceeds go back to the cause.
HG - Why does MVP sponsor so many thing in the town?
MD - Generous. The owners here as so generous. With everything, from money to time and effort. Giving back to the town makes it a much better place to live. They have kids who go to the schools in town & athletic programs, and it all comes full circle at some point, and MVP loves to be part of that. It is very rewarding.
HG - What do you attribute all of the positive on line reviews of MVP to?
MD - Our customer service. Our staff is very friendly and well trained. They are very welcoming. We have a guy by the name of Pat Hurley that works here. He has such an amazing set of people skills. I watched him the other day help a family that was having a difficult time with some children and not to get into specifics, but they way he handled it was incredible. So caring and truly involved. It is that type of thing that MVP wants to convey to our customers. And we are very generous to group events, not just in the summer, but in the winter too, especially hockey. We get a lot of positive feedback on social media. That is the big thing these days. It is important to be involved in all of the aspects of that these days, whether it is Facebook, twitter, or what ever else will be new this week.
HG - Do you have any summer opportunities for employment for kids in the town?
MD - Absolutely. That is another way we give back to the community. 80 to 90% of the kids employed here come back from college every year to work here. We love having employees from Tewksbury and Wilmington. It helps with the family atmosphere. Any one can find out about our job opportunities on line by visiting www.playatmvp.com.
HG - What do you think of the new Wamesit Complex opening at the old Motel Caswell site at the other end of town, and how do you think it will effect MVP?
MD - In my opinion, I'm not real worried from a business standpoint. I think that it will be geared more to the older crowd. I think it is a great opportunity to bring even more people into town and provide other businesses with that income addition. Plus, we offer so many birthday party packages. Our party packages are very unique and can be tailored to your kids, special event or holiday party. A lot of people think that the party packages are just for kids birthdays, but we have done a ton of holiday parties and camp programs too. It's a such a great experience here at MVP. As long as we stay reasonably priced and continue to provide great customer service and keep adding new things, we will have a great business relationship with them.
HG - In respect to the older crowd, meaning like over 15, or adults and couples, there are not many things for us to do in the town. Do you or will you have any adult themes or adult & couples nights?
MD - We definitely need to promote that a little more. While mini golf is surely for any age, we have had a fantasy football night, and ladies nights, and we have every Wednesday night, what's called "Cruisin' on the Pavilion." People drive over to our parking lot with awesome classic cars and hot rods. It's from 5pm till dusk. You can come by and check out the cars and reminisce and get some ice cream too.
HG - Can you drive them? ( I had to ask...)
MD - laughs..
Maria Dankens is a very nice woman. From the mounds of paperwork in her office, you can barely see her head sticking out from behind them. The phone is ringing every few minutes. Another request for a birthday party, or questions about laser tag and mini golf. She handles it all. MVP has certainly raised the bar from the old Grand Prix days. The establishment is extremely clean, and from a mom's standpoint, I love that. I see that it is safe and there are security cameras throughout. They not only work to promote events in our town of Tewksbury, they help out other communities as well. From Clown Town in Andover to Yankee Doodle in Billerica, MVP is always willing to provide help from what it seems like, whenever they are asked. So take a cruise on over and check it out. Play a round of mini golf or laser tag. And if you see that blond hair sticking out from behind her desk listening to the "GREASE" soundtrack, poke your head in and say hello!
Quick 5 - Maria Dankens
If I could sing a duet with anyone, it would be.. - Elvis Presley
Favorite game show - Name that Tune
Pet Peeve - phony people
Prettiest landscape I have ever seen - The Amalfi Coast in Italy
What did you want to be when you were growing up? - a nun ( no really.,she said that...!!)
(Hollie Gonzalez lives in Tewksbury with her husband and two children. She is very passionate about her town.)
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