WATERTOWN — The Jefferson County Industrial Development Agency on Thursday wrote off a loan for a virtual sports business in Stateway Plaza that was forced to go bankrupt.
Above Reality Virtual Sports Complex was forced to close in March when the coronavirus pandemic hit and it never reopened.
Two years ago, William Gaudette, a sports and outdoor enthusiast, and his wife, Debra, opened Above Reality Virtual Sports Complex with high hopes in the former Cici’s Pizza and Cold Stone Creamery building off Arsenal Street.
But the JCIDA wrote off a $33,303 loan that Mr. Gaudette took out with the JCIDA to purchase the golf and other virtual sports equipment.
The state shut down businesses in March to prevent the spread of the virus as part of the PAUSE act. Donald C. Alexander, the CEO of the county economic development corporation, the local economic development arm of the JCIDA, said the state considered the business as a theater. The owner filed for bankruptcy, he said.
With COVID-19 case numbers down, movie and other theaters recently opened.
Board members said they felt badly for Mr. Gaudette, a veteran who was awarded the Bronze Star, that the business was not successful, but they blamed the pandemic.
“This was a perfect storm,” Mr. Alexander said. “It’s sad circumstances for this young man.”
Earlier this year, the Watertown Local Development Corp. also known as the Watertown Trust, also wrote off another loan for $333,393 after the business also failed to pay it back.
The sports complex offered five simulators: four that allowed customers to play virtual golf and one multi-sport simulator with virtual hockey, basketball, baseball and other sports.
The owners hoped to cater to the millennial market with virtual reality, but also attract golfers and other athletes.
The Stateway Plaza complex also offered darts and an internet cafe.