Mel's Funway

Stephen McMahon pressure washes the batting cages at Mel’s Funway Park in Litchfield in May.

Despite many challenges, Mel’s Funway Park in Litchfield is reopening some of its attractions this weekend.

Although the park partially opened more than two weeks ago with its miniature golf and go-kart attractions, the park will now be reopening its batting cages and a new, temporary food cart.

“It is a struggle to piecemeal this thing,” said Wayne Caulfield, co-owner of Mel’s Funway Park.

Still, Caulfield said he is pleased to have the opportunity to reopen this summer in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We have been doing approximately about one-third of the business that we typically do,” he said, adding the park has also had to pay more staff than ever before to ensure the safety of its patrons. There are new cleaning protocols in place at the facility, along with the implementation of numerous safety stations. All employees are required to wear face masks, and extra cleaning is taking place at the batting cages, miniature golf area, go-karts, restrooms and more, he said. All of the golf clubs are sterilized after each use.

“These are all new expenses that the business has never had before. We have also had to cut back our hours, but we are still making every effort to make it work this summer. It is difficult,” Caulfield said.

He told town officials this week that all of the corporate events planned for this summer at Mel’s Funway Park have been canceled. Furthermore, he explained that a new restaurant tenant who had planned on leasing space at the former Mel’s Diner ultimately backed out of the deal once the pandemic hit and they realized they would not have been able to immediately open for indoor dining at full capacity.

As a result, the park was left without any food vendor to service patrons, said Caulfield, who approached town officials about the possibility of allowing a temporary food truck to operate at the site. Although the request was initially denied by the town’s zoning enforcement officer, the Board of Selectmen this week decided to allow the food truck.

“I think we need to support him in any way we can,” said Selectman John Pinciaro.

His fellow board members agreed, granting a waiver to allow the food truck to operate at the park for 90 days. Caulfield said overcoming that hurdle was a huge relief, stressing the importance of being able to feed guests throughout the summer months.

“We don’t have any fear of going out of business,” he said, explaining their bank is committed to helping them succeed despite the many challenges and the uncertain economic times. “We are just trying to get through this, just like everyone else.”

At least for now, the arcade and indoor laser tag facilities will remain closed at the park.

“Our concern is always customer safety first,” said Caulfield, adding he is unsure when those attractions will reopen.