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Sun., Oct. 4
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Velocity loses its speed, closes Court Street family fun center


Velocity, the family fun center in Empsall Plaza on Court Street, is no more.

And the Dungeon, an all-ages, no-alcohol venue where rock and other bands performed in the center’s basement, went silent Friday night.

Susan T. Chiffy, who co-owned the center for the past six years, declined to comment.

But signs written in marker have been hung up on the center’s entrances announcing the closing. Velocity’s website also indicates that it no longer is in business.

Opened in 2006, the center offered laser tag, a soft-play gym and arcade games mainly for kids. German Leon, a Los Angeles actor and director who owns Psychedelic Entertainment LLC, purchased the two individual but connected buildings at 122-130 Court St. and 122-130 Rear Court St. for $60,000, with the hope that the family-oriented business would bring Watertown back to “the good days,” he said in 2006.

The 3,000 square feet that housed Velocity included the ground floor but not the upper floors that make up the Brighton Apartments. Mr. Leon also owns a third connecting building, at 223 J.B. Wise Place, where the Tunes 92.5 FM radio station, an insurance agency and a hair salon occupy space.

Earlier this week, tenants confirmed Velocity’s closing but said they heard that Thomas Shultz, owner of Re-Sale America, was interested in purchasing the space. A few of his employees were moving some equipment on Thursday, but said they had no idea whether Mr. Shultz has plans for the two buildings.

Just a few minutes before the 4 p.m. deadline June 24, Mr. Shultz showed up at City Hall and paid $4,570.47 in back taxes for the front part of Velocity but not all of its space, said City Comptroller James E. Mills.

That’s because the majority of the space is a separate property, Mr. Mills said. Mr. Shultz did not pay the $18,149.92 in uncollected taxes for the back part of Velocity, even though it looks like the same building.

You can walk from one building and into another without realizing it, said Kenneth A. Mix, the city’s planning and community development coordinator.

“It gets a little complicated,” Mr. Mix said.

The city soon will take control of 122-30 Rear Court St., which also includes two upper floors and mostly vacant commercial space. As it stands, 122-30 Rear Court St. will be auctioned off in October, along with a building at 591 Rear Main St. and four vacant lots, as part of the city’s tax sale, Mr. Mills said.

City officials said they are confused why Mr. Shultz would pay the back taxes for 122-30 Court St., since it does not give him any legal right to the property and Psychedelic Entertainment continues to own it.

“We explained that to him, and that’s what he wanted to do,” City Assessor Brian S. Phelps said. “It doesn’t make sense.”

As for the Dungeon, its last show was Friday night, when local punk band Still Rings True performed in the basement venue, which opened in 2008.

Andrew F. Rounds, who helped Ms. Chiffy manage the venue, said earlier this week that he does not know what will happen next for the Dungeon, where teens could gather to hear music played by area bands and by groups coming from as far away as Buffalo.

Mr. Rounds said he hopes to find a new location.

“It’s kind of frustrating to have the ground taken from underneath us like this,” he said.

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