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Business Brief: Entertainment Boom A Sign Of A Healthy Jacksonville Economy

Cathey standing in front of "Smash" sign.
Karen Mathis
Jacksonville Daily Record
Devlin Cathey is general manager of the upcoming Smash pingpong bar in Baymeadows.

Northeast Florida is seeing a boom in new entertainment venues.

As Jacksonville Daily Record editor Karen Mathis tells WJCT’s Jessica Palombo, that’s a sign of a healthy economy.

Ten years ago during the Great Recession, it was a different story, she said.

“You didn’t have a lot of this sort of development taking place. In fact, a lot of the entertainment facilities really saw a drop-off because of the costs involved. People didn’t have the money to go out and spend on having fun,” she said. “And this time they do.”

Here’s a sampling of the recently opened and coming-soon attractions:


Buy two weekday lunch entrees and get 30 minutes free of pingpong (subject to table availability) to work it off.

That’s one of the features coming to Southside as the Smash pingpong restaurant and bar prepares to open in about a month in Baymeadows Junction at 8206 Philips Highway.

“This is a nice way to spend your time,” said Smash General Manager Devlin Cathey, who also is executive chef.

Smash’s tagline is “Play. Eat. Drink. Repeat.”

“Our goal is to provide a unique, locally owned and operated, space to hang out, relax, and play with friends and family,” says a statement by Smash.

The 13,000-square-foot space is designed with 12 pingpong tables, and space for more if needed, to attract social, competitive and children’s leagues; team-building events; corporate meetings; and those looking for a place for lunch, dinner or drinks.

Surge Adventure Park

The former Sports Authority space at the Regency Court Shopping Center is slated to house a Surge Adventure Park.

On Facebook, Surge Adventure Park – Jacksonville, FL  describes the park as an “indoor air-conditioned adventure park facility with wall to wall trampolines, flying trapeze, foam pit, dodgeball, battle beam, rock climbing wall, foam pit, and basketball dunking lanes. A fun place to jump and burn energy for all ages.”

Axe Throwing

Also in Regency is a sign advertising an axe throwing venue, Class Axe.

“You go with your friends and you throw axes,” Mathis said. After training for about 90 minutes, groups can have competitions to see who can throw their axe and get it to stick in a board closest to a target.

Jacksonville is also seeing more venues that offer:

“These are not inexpensive facilities to open,” Mathis said, with so many of these projects involving complicated buildouts and hiring lots of workers. “It is an investment, and that has the economic ripple effect as well.”

Jessica Palombo supervises local news gathering and production, podcasts and web editorial content for WJCT News, ADAPT and Jacksonville Today. She is an award-winning writer and journalist with bylines including NPR, Experience Magazine, and The Gainesville Sun. She has a master’s degree in broadcast and digital journalism from Syracuse University and is an alumna of the University of Florida. A nearly lifelong resident of Jacksonville, she considers herself lucky to be raising her own children in her hometown. Follow Jessica Palombo on Twitter: @JaxJessicaP