Funplex ‘a disaster waiting to happen’ say county officials

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by Doug Miller / KHOU 11 News

khou.com

Posted on February 14, 2014 at 7:16 PM

Updated Friday, Feb 14 at 7:20 PM

HOUSTON -- Funplex, an indoor family entertainment complex equipped with everything from bowling alleys to a Ferris wheel, is plagued with serious and potentially deadly fire code violations, according to Harris County attorneys who’ve filed a lawsuit against the facility’s owners.

The lawsuit lists a series of fire hazards allegedly endangering customers, especially during parties that attract large crowds. Fire marshals have issued 28 orders commanding Funplex’s owners to correct the violations, but they say the orders have simply been ignored.

“They block the passageways to exit doors,” said Melissa Spinks with the Harris Co. Attorney’s Office. “They completely block exit doors. Some of the doors are not operable. The fire suppression system is not operating correctly. They have fire alarms that don’t work. They have electrical wiring problems. The list goes on and on.”

Parties thrown at the complex attract crowds of young people facing such serious safety hazards, the Harris Co. Fire Marshal’s Office reduced the building’s occupancy limit to 299. But Funplex has ignored the limit, continued selling tickets to larger events and even allowed people to use flares inside the building, county attorneys said.

“What we want them to do is comply with the orders, make this a safe place, because you’re attracting families and children,” Spinks said. “They’re coming to Funplex to have a good time. And if a fire happens and people can’t get out and the sprinkler systems aren’t working, it’s just a disaster waiting to happen.”

Funplex – a development once known as Fame City – is a sprawling, five-acre entertainment complex featuring bumper cars, go-karts, movie theaters, a skating rink and other attractions for young people. Beyonce used the complex as shooting location for the video version of “Blow,” a song from her most recent album.

County attorneys aren’t sure how the case will unfold, because they can’t recall ever filing a suit like this one. Businesses typically comply with fire marshal orders, they say.

“Ultimately, the bad thing that would happen is if a fire occurs and a bunch of people die,” Spinks said. “That’s the worst thing that could happen. And that’s what we’re trying to prevent.”

Funplex officials didn’t return calls for comment.

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