Remember the Alamo Fun Center

The Battle of the Alamo that took place in San Antonio in 1836 was a pivotal point in the quest for Texas independence from Mexico. Those who grew up in Texas learned all about that in seventh grade Texas History. But those new to the state may not know all the facts, and they may wonder how the Alamo got relocated to Plano at the corner of Lexington and Premier, behind Target on Parker Road.

It didn’t, of course, but two Plano entrepreneurs and brothers-in-law, Nathan White and Gene Cason, as well as some other investors, had a vision in the early 1980s to build a fun place for young people in Plano to just “hang out.” Nathan, a former Collin County Judge and history buff, wanted the fun center to represent Texas. So what better than to model the arcade after the Alamo?

“I found a masonry to create the façade of the building to replicate the face of the Alamo,” Nathan said. “We envisioned a fun center, but it was probably premature since Plano was still small at the time.”

The Alamo Fun Center soon after it opened in August 1982 // photo from 1983 Vines High School yearbook

With a population not too far from 300,000 today, the business would most likely have succeeded, but not with the Plano city population of 40,000-60,000 at the time, according to Nathan. A tremendous rainy season and a few concerns from the Plano City Council pushed the opening of the Alamo Fun Center back six months, so that was an obstacle at opening the business.

“Video games were really the rage, so we found someone who would buy the video games and we would share the earnings,” he said. The ownership of the arcade, however, did not change.

Photo of the Alamo interior with the original caption from the 1983 Vines High School yearbook

It turned out to be an attraction for many Plano young people then, even though it was not much of a money maker.

“I worked there. I ran the bumper boats. It was my second job,” said David Leidy, a former employee. “They discovered that I could work on small engines, and that became one of my duties, to keep those motors running.”

David said that also led him to work on the batting cages as well. The Alamo Fun Center offered many options for fun-seekers, including video games, bumper boats, batting cages, miniature golf and a pizza oven.

A worker at the Crest Auto Group Collision Center said it’s not uncommon to walk outside and see a group of international tourists taking photos of Plano’s Alamo, perhaps mistaking it for the real thing // photo Jennifer Shertzer

“We had my wife’s 40th birthday party at Chuck E. Cheese’s in Richardson to see their concept and their pizza production,” laughed Nathan.

But David doesn’t have fond memories of the pizza at Alamo Fun Center. “I remember the pizza was bad,” he said, “but it was free to staff.”

Many people have wonderful memories of what was then the newest hangout.

“The Alamo was a pretty cool place. They had a good arcade,” said 1989 Plano East Senior High graduate Dane Hoffman. “They had bumper boats, which was the best thing there. Also a good miniature golf course that had a Texas theme. It was a fun place to spend a Saturday afternoon.”

Dane also remembers a smaller version of Big Tex (replicating the one from the State Fair of Texas) on the miniature golf course, keeping with Nathan’s idea to focus on Texas icons at the fun center.

A July 1986 photo of Jeff Conley with Premier Auto Leasing, the then-occupant of Plano’s Alamo look-alike structure // courtesy Plano Star Courier newspaper

Scott Maxwell, who was a 15-year-old Plano resident at the time, worked at Alamo Fun Center, as his father was an investor in the establishment.

“I had special privileges. All I know is, as I got as far as you could go [on the arcade game], I had the key, would open up and press that lever that gets the quarters for like 25 credits,” Scott added. “Dude, I went further than any human possible. It was a great idea, but Alamo Fun Center lost money.”

The building is still standing today, but it is probably not a place where many people would like to hang out. It’s now the Crest Auto Group Collision Center. The Alamo Fun Center may have crashed, like so many of the cars at the collision center, but it was a fun place – ahead of its time – for young people in Plano to create fond memories.

Do you have fond memories of Plano’s Alamo Fun Center in the 1980s? Leave them in the comments section below.

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1 Comment

  • Loved this story about Plano’s Alamo. Have driven past it so many times without knowing its history. Now that Rick has so eloquently informed me it has prompted such curiosity to seek more photos. Thanks Rick for a great story!

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