UltraStar Sign Comes Down
A worker dismantles and removes an UltraStar sign at the Ak-Chin entertainment center on Friday morning. Photo by Bob McGovern

Adam Saks knew the day was coming for a long time, and it arrived Friday.

The Ak-Chin Community took over operations of the entertainment complex that UltraStar Cinemas had helped build and open in 2012 and then managed for eight years.

Saks, president of California-based UltraStar and former general manager of the Maricopa center, said Ak-Chin wanted to manage the facility from the beginning and became an operations partner early on.

“This is what the community always wanted,” he said. “We were happy to facilitate the transfer.”

“We’re excited to see what comes next” for the rebranded entertainment center, he added.

UltraStar had an initial five-year management contract that was extended for three more years. When the contract expired this time around, the Ak-Chin Community Council decided not to renew.

That decision, said Saks, came out of discussions about the impact the coronavirus pandemic was having on operations at the entertainment center, specifically, and the movie business, generally. “It came down to now is the right time,” he said.

Calling the pandemic “a significant challenge,” the Ak-Chin Community saw an opportunity to reposition the 162,000-square-foot facility, which includes a restaurant, cinemas, bowling alley, laser tag and arcade.

“This is an opportunity for the Ak-Chin Community to rebrand and refresh this entertainment complex so that it lives up to its fullest potential,” said Ak-Chin Chairman Robert Miguel said in a statement. “We thank UltraStar for its partnership over the past eight years and look forward to what comes next for our Ak-Chin Circle Entertainment Center.

“In this environment, venue operators have to innovate if they’re going to get customers in the door and be successful,” Miguel continued. “We also have an obligation to spend Tribal dollars wisely and make sure this complex is helping create jobs and generate revenue for our Community. We can’t wait to introduce the next generation of fun-seekers to the new Ak-Chin Circle Entertainment Center.”

Adam Saks UltraStar
Adam Saks is president of UltraStar Cinemas.

There was no resentment in Saks’ voice on Friday afternoon.

“I am very thankful for the relationships I’ve built,” Saks said, after reminiscing earlier in the day with UltraStar CEO Alan Grossberg about the personal growth and development of many employees at the complex. “Without a doubt, it has been the crowning achievement of my career.”

Saks may be moving on from the entertainment center on State Route 347, but he will be busy with UltraStar’s two locations in North Carolina and others in development in six states.

He expects to remain active in the Maricopa community as a member of the board for both the Maricopa Chamber of Commerce and Maricopa Economic Development Alliance. A founding board member of the Maricopa Community Foundation, he also serves as vice chair of the Pinal Regional Partnership Council for First Things First.

“We live in Chandler, but my life is in Maricopa,” he said.

Saks said he will miss most the people, whom he called “exceptional.”

“There was a real camaraderie in the triumphs and challenges,” he said.