UltraStar gone

A worker takes down the sign for UltraStar Cinemas on Oct. 16 following an announcement that the Ak-Chin Indian Community was taking over operations.

MARICOPA — The future of Pinal County’s largest entertainment center changed overnight as UltraStar Cinemas announced it is leaving the Ak-Chin Indian Community.

UltraStar made the announcement late Thursday that it would be leaving due to the financial burden placed on the center over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic. In a separate press release on Friday, the Ak-Chin Community Council said it opted not to extend its agreement with UltraStar.

The UltraStar Multi-tainment Center had been in operation for eight years and includes a movie theater, arcade, bowling alley, laser tag and dining options. On Tuesday, the company announced it would be closing all its movie theaters temporarily across the country.

“It has been an honor to be a part of all aspects of this landmark entertainment project, from conception, building, opening, managing and operating for the past 8 years,” UltraStar said in its announcement. “We wish the Ak-Chin Indian Community continued success.”

Operations of the facility will be transferred to the Ak-Chin tribe, and it will now be called the Ak-Chin Circle Entertainment Center.

“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. “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.”

Laurie McCartney has taken over as the general manager of the entertainment center, replacing longtime leader Adam Saks. According to the tribe’s statement, it will focus on a “reposition” of the facility for a post-COVID world.

The movie theater remains closed, but the other entertainment options are still available, according to the new website, ak-chincircle.com.

“In this environment, venue operators have to innovate if they’re going to get customers in the door and be successful. 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,” Miguel said. “We can’t wait to introduce the next generation of fun-seekers to the new Ak-Chin Circle Entertainment Center.”