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May 22, 2013

Victorian Park to close after 22 years

Victorian park to close after season

SALEM — Labor Day will mark the end of an era at Victorian Park.

Owner Larry Belair said yesterday he and his wife, Verna, are retiring and selling the 22-year-old miniature golf course and family entertainment center. The park will become the new home of Bien Soigne spa of Windham.

A building that was once an arcade will feature a Himalayan salt cave. The greens and ice cream parlor will disappear, and the grounds will feature a meditation garden and place for yoga.

But for the couple, both 73, it’s bittersweet, Larry Belair said.

“For us, it will be a sad day when the closing of the park finally comes,” he said. “We loved our years in this business.”

Belair said he’s been trying to sell the property for at least eight years, but it was difficult because of the slumping economy. Miniature golf is also seeing a decline in popularity, he said.

More young people are interested in Facebook and texting their friends than playing a round of mini golf, Belair said.

“The kids don’t put the iPhones down long enough to pick up a putter,” he said.

For more than two decades, Belair said he and his wife have looked forward to the park’s opening each April after spending four months in Florida.

But next April will be different.

“We may not be rushing up I-95 to get here by April 1 anymore,” he said. “We’ve already booked a river cruise in April to see the Tulip Festival in Holland.”

Belair, a builder for 35 years, said he opened the park in 1992 after seeing how popular miniature golf had become in Florida. He and his wife visited 100 courses before coming up with their own design.

The Haunted Mansion, one of the park’s most popular features each fall, closed five years ago after a similar attraction opened at Canobie Lake Park, he said.

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