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Bonker’s Funhouse in Peabody sets sights on new Saugus location

Bonker's Funhouse will close Saturday, Feb. 24. (Owen O'Rourke)

PEABODY — Bonker’s Funhouse, the arcade that has entertained youngsters with mazes, rides and games since the 1960s, is closing.

But the Lowell Street landmark that can be seen from Route I-95 has found a potential new home at the Square One Mall in Saugus. It is expected to open next fall.

A Bonker’s spokeswoman said the arcade will close Saturday, Feb. 24. The improved amusement center on Route 1 will be larger and have all-new attractions, but she did not know what they were.

Before it moves, Bonker’s must get approval for the Square One Mall location, according to Debra Panetta, Saugus Board of Selectmen chairman.

“It would be nice to bring life back to the mall,” she said. “But they need a special permit from the board before they relocate.”

Bonker’s is owned and operated by Family Entertainment Group LLC, an Illinois-based company that develops and manages amusement facilities globally.

The company has constructed In The Game next to Bonkers, which will be demolished following its closure. The new $4.9 million arcade will feature 30,000 square feet of multi-level space for nearly 100 games including three-level laser tag and a climbing wall. There will also be a bar and an Italian restaurant. It is expected to open in March.

Unlike Bonker’s, which caters to elementary school-age children, In The Game is for an 18- to 25-year-old crowd.

The entertainment business is competitive on the North Shore with Dave and Buster’s, Chuck E. Cheese’s, and Wicked Escapes.

In 2013, Yebba Realty Ventures purchased the property at 535 Lowell St. for $5.75 million from Samga Corp., the former owner and operator of Bonkers, and entered into a 15-year lease with Family Entertainment.


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