A miniature golf course is proposed for the former Fritz’s Tire location on Route 1 in Arundel. The planning board is expected to consider the proposal at its Jan. 10 meeting. DAN KING/Kennebunk Post

ARUNDEL – Route 1 could soon have a new attraction with a prehistoric nature: a dinosaur-themed miniature golf course.

The project is proposed by Arundel residents Cliff and Bree Gajtkowski. The project is proposed to be an 18-hole miniature golf course named Raptor Falls. If the project is approved at a Jan. 10 planning board meeting, the business could open as soon as summer 2019.

The 8-acre site, located at 1912 Portland Road, was previously the home of Fritz’s Tire, an Arundel landmark of 44 years. Fritz’s closed closed in 2016.

The Gajtkowskis have the property under contract, the sale contingent on the approval of the project. The property is assessed at $195,600.

The couple has taken out a business loan to bring their plan to fruition, and has estimated that the eventual costs will total about $1.2 million, which includes the cost of permits. The project will include log bridges and a water feature, with falls cascading from the top of the park to a pool near the entrance.

Cliff and Bree Gajtkowski have lived in Arundel since May 2015. When asked what brought the couple to Arundel from their former respective homes in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, and Portland, Cliff Gajtkowski answered, with a tongue-in-cheek chuckle, “love.”

“We moved to Arundel for each other, because we wanted to be together. We were looking to buy a house, and Arundel falls in a place where we can both conveniently commute to our respective jobs,” Gajtkowski said. “So we came to Arundel for love.”

The idea to bring a mini-golf course to Arundel was spawned a year and a half ago.

“We had originally decided on a nautical theme, but neither of us was really excited about it,” Gajtkowski said. “It just didn’t feel right, and pretty much everything around here is nautical themed.”

It wasn’t until the couple went to the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions Convention in Florida last year that the two found a theme that they were passionate about – dinosaurs.

“We visited the booth of the company that helped us design our course (Castle Golf Inc. out of Mesa, Arizona) and they showed us the layout for a dinosaur themed park they had just completed, and it was our ‘aha’ moment,” Gajtkowski said. “We just looked at each other and knew that this was exactly what we wanted to do.”

The course will include dinosaurs as the primary attraction to the property, with a mix of both stationary and animatronic creatures. The couple is waiting to purchase the dinosaurs until they secure planning board approval, but they have begun pricing models with multiple distributors.

The animatronic dinosaurs range in price depending on the distributor, but models featured on mydinosaurs.com range from $1,000 to $10,000 for smaller models such as a stryracosaurus or triceratops, and to big ticket $20,000 for a tyrannosaurus rex.  The animatronic dinosaurs will be the showstoppers of the park, able to perform actions such as opening their eyes, swinging their heads, planting their tails and appearing to breathe, providing an experience unlike any in the area.

“This isn’t a ‘Flintstones’ park. These look absolutely real,” said Arundel Town Planner Tad Redway. “This is going to be a huge draw to Arundel. I think it could become one of those landmark attractions along Route 1.”

The Maine Department of Transportation has given its approval to allow patrons to enter and exit the property directly on Route 1.

The course will have a clubhouse in the footprint of the former Fritz’s Tire building, where patrons will pick up equipment, which will also serve as the gateway into the course. There will be concessions available inside the clubhouse, with a proposed ice cream shop inside.

“We have so much respect for other small business owners now, planning this project has been so much more work than we anticipated,” Gajtkowski said. “It’s made us want to go out and support every other small business in town.”

The project has appeared in front of the planning board four times, on Sept. 27, Nov.8, Nov. 29, and a site walk was held Oct. 13. The team has, as Redway put it, “really done their homework,” going as far as paying out of pocket for a feasibility study to be performed to project the success of such a project. To gain approval, a few adjustments remain, including altering the number of lights that shine into the street as to avoid bothering neighbors.

At the most recent meeting, the project received a 30-day extension to handle a discrepancy with the deed. The project will next go before the board on Jan. 10.

“We want you to make it,” said planning board member Sue Roth after the unanimous vote to grant the project the extension. “We really want you to make it happen.”

“We really want to get you in there,” agreed board Chairman Richard Ganong.

Should the project be approved at the Jan. 10 meeting, the couple hopes to break ground in the spring.

According to Gajtkowski, the project timeline is six-weeks, which leaves the couple optimistic that the course could be open for almost a full 2019 season.

“This has been a heck of a project,” Gajtkowski said. “I know it’s dinosaurs, but this isn’t just for kids, this will be fun for all ages. We’re optimistic for the future of the project.”

Staff Writer Abigail Worthing can be reached at [email protected].

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