As the first customer through the doors Friday morning at UltraStar Multi-tainment Center, four-year-old Jacob Klinzing was headed to play games in the arcade.
With a card loaded up by his mother, Cat, he was ready to play the Walking Dead video game and skeeball.
The Klinzings, who live in Acacia Crossing, were one of several families who visited UltraStar as the entertainment complex reopened after being closed for two months to help prevent the spread of coronavirus.
The complex welcomed a handful of bowlers, diners and others with procedures in place to safeguard the health of patrons and employees, including physical distancing, sanitizer stations and matching face masks for workers.
“When I said we were going out, he was so excited, grabbing his shoes,” said Klinzing, who said her family had been “really good” following Gov. Doug Ducey’s stay-at-home order, which expires today. She said she had been particularly careful about her son’s health, staying at home and out of the grocery store, for example.
“I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t feel safe,” she said.
At the Ten Pins Down bowling center, the first two bowlers to check in at the counter – under an electronic sign that said “We’ve Missed You!” – immediately reached for the hand sanitizer.
Peggy Whitaker, 66, and her husband, Jeff, 64, wore masks on their faces as they prepared to bowl after a long hiatus. They had their lane for an hour.
The Whitakers, who live in Cobblestone Farms, said they typically bowl 3-4 times weekly and play in leagues at UltraStar.
“This is wonderful,” Peggy said. “It opened just in time. It’s a great time to come.”
Still, they were taking necessary precautions. “We are taking care of ourselves,” she said.
But she added that others remained concerned about being out and about during the pandemic.
“All the women I know are scared to death, because they are in my age bracket,” she said.
Peggy was especially looking forward to rolling the ball again – with her left arm.
A natural lefty kegler, she had replacement surgery on that shoulder 18 months ago, and spent much of her rehabilitation bowling instead with her right arm. On Friday, she was ready to try out the new shoulder.
“It’s going to be fun,” she said.
Alyssa and Mili Kajtaz saw the reopening as an opportunity to get their two young sons out of their Maricopa Meadows home.
“We thought we would let the kids have some fun,” said Mili, father of Bentley, 8, and Liam, 6, as they prepared to bowl. “I love the bowling alley,” the younger boy said.
The family stayed home during the governor’s order and the boys had “no interaction with anybody,” Mili said.
In the 347 Grill, which was greeting diners after being closed since mid-March, the Charli and Nick Kaltved were celebrating their son, Kekoa, 11, for Student of the Month honors at Pima Butte Elementary School. Two of their six grandchildren, Matt and Jake, were helping them celebrate.
As the Maricopa family – with face masks in their pockets – waited for lunch to arrive at their table, Nick said he and his wife have been working essential jobs through the stay-at-home order. They prioritize their family’s safety, he said.
Earlier this morning, gamblers lined up for the reopening at the adjacent Harrah’s Ak-Chin Casino.
As a television chopper overhead broadcast live images, a couple hundred people waited in the sun for the doors to open at 9 a.m.
Asked what brought her to Harrah’s to wait in line, Liz Taylor of the Phoenix area responded quickly: “Gambling.”
“We haven’t been able to gamble since March 17,” her friend, JoEllen Geary, added.
When the doors finally opened, the crowd cheered.
Gamblers at Harrah’s will play slots and blackjack on a casino floor reconfigured to promote social distancing. Banks of slot machines have been arranged to keep players at least six feet from one another, the casino had said earlier. There will be limited seating at blackjack tables.
Other protocol includes hand-sanitizing stations available throughout the casino floor, masks for all employees and increased cleaning service.
The vast majority of gamblers waiting to enter the casino did not wear face masks.
The resort and hotel tower guest rooms will open Friday evening.
Not all amenities will be open, including The Poker Room, Keno and Bingo. Some venues remain closed as well, including the Events Center, Valet and the Spa and Fitness Center.
Some casino eateries will be open with social-distancing protocols in place, including Chop Block & Brew, Agaves, Copper Cactus and Dunkin Donuts.