Silos Fun Park faces chal­lenges amid COVID-19, but still hopes to expand the facility in the future. Josh Newhook | Col­legian

On Oct. 9, Silos Fun Park opened its arcade for the first time since the beginning of the COVID-19 pan­demic.

Silos Fun Park, which began oper­a­tions under new own­ership on March 3, now serves the public from 4 p.m. to closing on weekdays and during regular business hours on Sat­urday and Sunday.

Silos Fun Park, which pre­vi­ously ceased oper­a­tions in 2015, was pur­chased for $345,000 in August 2019 by Donna Olm­stead, owner of the Cottage Inn Pizza in Hillsdale. Olm­stead has owned the Cottage Inn Pizza fran­chise in Hillsdale since 2015.

Late fall, con­struction started. It con­sisted of an extension off Silos Fun Park arcade, including a smaller, more man­ageable kitchen and a larger dining hall space. “The restaurant is bigger to allow for parties,” Olm­stead said.

The con­struction fin­ished in late Feb­ruary, and both the Silos Fun Park arcade and Cottage Inn Pizza opened on March 3. Business boomed upon opening.

“We were open for two weeks before it got shut down,” Olm­stead said. “We set records for this Cottage Inn branch those two weeks, so we know what the potential is.”

Nev­er­theless, just a couple of weeks later, they were forced to close the arcade and the dining hall due to the COVID-19 pan­demic.

Despite this setback, the pizza side of the business carried on, but in a dif­ferent fashion.

“Because we are pizza and we are used to carry out and delivery, it wasn’t any­thing for us to con­tinue business as usual,” Olm­stead said. “What sur­prised us the most was the amount of people still wanting delivery, because we thought that people wouldn’t want to take the chance of having drivers come to their house.”

In order to mit­igate the anxiety of guests, Cottage Inn switched to “con­tactless delivery,” which allowed guests to pay remotely and have items dropped off without any contact with the delivery driver. Cottage Inn has taken a similar approach to curbside pickup, where cus­tomers pay ahead and receive their meals without getting out of their vehicles. These mea­sures con­tinue to the present.

In addition, to abide by the governor’s exec­utive orders, san­i­tation has greatly increased. Gloves are now used for drivers and cashiers rather than just those in the kitchen.

Such mea­sures were not without a cost, as san­i­tation prices rose during the pan­demic.

“I used to be able to get a box of gloves from our sup­plier for $11,” Olm­stead said. “Recently, for the same style gloves without shipping, I spent $23.”

Food prices have also increased during the shutdown.

Nev­er­theless, these increases are being absorbed right now.

“In our minds, as a cor­po­ration, we think that there must be an end to this soon,” Olm­stead said.

The dining hall reopened in August, with seating capacity limited to 50 people and groups of 10 or less. Cottage Inn must serve food on paper plates and have single-service utensils and condi­ments.

On the other hand, Silos Fun Park did not have the initial success they antic­i­pated.

“When we saw what was going to happen, we decided we are not going to put the money in this year,” she said.

Instead, Olm­stead focused on getting the mini-golf course, bumper boats, and go-cart in prime con­dition, as they had all been lacking service over the last five years.

Even with these dis­ap­point­ments, Silos Fun Park was able to open its outdoor attrac­tions in July.

Hillsdale College stu­dents said they enjoy the ren­o­vated outdoor fun park a lot.

Sophomore Will McIntosh said he went to Silos in Sep­tember.

“It’s very acces­sible,” McIntosh said. “It’s the best off-campus enter­tainment for the price.”

Sophomore Gabe Gainar also expressed praise for its afford­ability.

“It was very cheap for what they had to offer,” Gainar said.

While this year con­sisted of mostly ren­o­vation, prior expansion plans have not been aban­doned. Olm­stead has reached out to the city to ren­ovate the grain ele­vator and silos con­nected to the park. In the end, she qual­ified for a tax abatement for a restoration.

“We are looking at ways that we can put added attrac­tions on the inside, so it will be open for all seasons,” she said.

“But until we get a really good handle on what coro­n­avirus means for us now, we are still exploring that.”