Nfld. & Labrador

No fun: St. John's amusement park Axtion among latest COVID-19 business casualties

The indoor amusement park will see its last rounds of go-karting and bumper boats on Sunday, with its owners saying the pandemic dealt them multiple financial blows.

Owner says final day will be Sunday, but hopes things could change

Axtion Owner Ross Squires says the COVID-19 pandemic has pushed his business to close. (Ted Dillon/CBC)

An indoor amusement park in St. John's that has hosted countless birthday parties, go-karting sessions and rounds of bumper boats will soon be no more, as the owners of Axtion say the pandemic is forcing them to close their doors.

Owner Ross Squires announced this week on Facebook that its final day of fun at the 16,000-square-foot facility will be Sunday.

"COVID won," he wrote.

On Thursday, he told CBC News that the business's bills have been higher than its income lately.

COVID-19 pushed his business, which opened eight years ago, over the edge, he said.

It started with a wounded economy due to January's snowstorm, then the lockdown caused by the global health crisis, which saw the space close entirely. Upon reopening, Axtion faced capacity restrictions, and despite regulations changing to allow more customers inside, finances didn't improve.

Finally came December, and the company's "worst month yet," which in a normal year should have brought a year-end boost, Squires said. But provincial health officials stressed the importance of not holding corporate Christmas parties and keeping contacts low over the holidays ito prevent the spread of COVID-19.

"Everyone listened. People wanted to make sure that that didn't happen, understandably so, but it did have a major effect on our business," said Squires. 

Axtion sits inside a 16,000-square-foot space offering rides, games and obstacle courses. (Ted Dillon/CBC)

Community support

Hundreds of comments flooded in after Squires posted his farewell message on Facebook. Many expressed shock, sadness and disappointment.

Outside the amusement park on Thursday, parents and children were disappointed by the news.

"I was devastated. I was scared to tell my son because I knew how devastated he'd be. We go there often. Every couple of weeks we're here, at least," mom Melissa Dagostini said. 

Dagostini isn't alone. 

For dad Roger Lewis, the place was as much about having fun as it was about teaching his daughter to overcome fears. 

"We broke the news yesterday to my daughter. She's seven. She came to Axtion initially to get over her fear of heights, and she did succeed," Lewis said. 

"She shed a few tears yesterday afternoon when she did find out that it was closing."

Support for Axtion has poured in as the company faces closure, says owner Ross Squires. (Ted Dillon/CBC)

Many customers expressed hope that something could be done to keep the park running, with 25 staff members' jobs at stake.

Squires said since his post went up on Wednesday business has been booming, and support from his customers has been steadily flowing in. 

"A lot of support has come in. A lot of phone calls and things like that, and the community is actually coming to bat for me," he said.

As for Sunday's closure, "that may change. I can't give a final decision right now, but things may change pretty quick," said Squires.

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

With files from Cec Haire

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