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Making Dreams Come True

Making Dreams Come True

  • This story originally appeared in the April 2024 "20 Under 40" issue of COMO Magazine.

Backlighted by neon, Parks Amusement is all about entertainment.

A recently installed neon-lit sign on the side of a building at the corner of Ninth Street and Broadway in downtown Columbia announces Parks Amusement. Ascending three flights of stairs, visitors arrive at a spacious open office and meeting area, where Nic Parks is strategizing with three university students. The room is adorned with framed awards on the walls, and there are several quiet areas designated for co-working space. 

Additionally, there is a small arcade table that may draw one’s attention and inspire a game of Atari Pong. After his meeting ended, Nic greets me with a handshake and a smile. 

Nic was recognized as a “20 Under 40” in 2018 by COMO Business Times

“That was my last year of eligibility,” Nic jokes. “I never expected to receive that honor, and it still surprises me when people recognize me when I’m at one of the businesses.” 

Nic has made a name for himself in the entertainment industry of Missouri by establishing successful businesses like Lakeside Ashland, Silverball Arcade & Bar, Shiloh Bar & Grill, Level Up Entertainment, and The Pinball Company. 

“I have always been a person who dreams about the next best thing,” Nic says. “When we established Silverball, the goal was to transform it into the premier destination in Columbia. A location where organizations can host meetings or individuals can unwind.” He has spent a significant portion of the past decade pursuing his dreams, and in the process, has realized the dreams of many others. 

Nic attributes much of his success in business to his management team and his wife, Brooke. Although it is his vision and standards that he wants upheld, he acknowledges that without his team, he would be unable to attend his children’s sports events or have breakfast with them. Brooke Parks is the CEO of Pinball, and the couple works together in a shared office environment and regularly have lunch together. Nic says that their partnership is important to them, and Brooke is the person he can bounce his ideas off. She understands their vision for the businesses and how they want their lives to be reflected upon in the future. 

“I feel fortunate to have found the right people who can bring my vision to life,” he says. “Knowing my vision and standards are being upheld allows me to pop in and check on things versus feeling the need to be there twenty-four-seven.”  

He believes Columbia’s vibrant, young college town is an added advantage for his business. Over 40 percent of his employees are hourly workers, primarily students, and Nic considers them the “A-Team.” Nic values his employees and always makes sure they feel appreciated and recognized. The pipeline of bright and energetic students from colleges and high schools has helped his business grow and expand in ways he couldn’t have imagined. 

“For me, it’s all about giving an entertainment experience,” he adds. “I design everything in the businesses to optimize the experience and I expect that people will find a clean area to unwind, drink, eat, and spend time with friends and family.”  

The newest addition to Parks Amusements is Lakeside Ashland, located at 5900 E. Log Providence Rd. and just four miles north of downtown Ashland. The outdoor entertainment venue opened last year and has become a popular spot for families to hang out, catch a movie, or listen to live bands. It is available for rental for private events, which includes having Lakeside staff to assist, or a person can purchase VIP seating for events held at the venue. 

Feeling hungry after a game or just wanting to meet up with friends for good food? Shiloh Bar & Grill at 402 East Broadway has recently undergone a complete renovation. Nic was initially uncertain about adding a restaurant to his portfolio when he was approached about purchasing the business. However, he later decided to invest in a restaurant after speaking with one of his passionate food managers at Level Up Entertainment, located in the Columbia Mall. 

With its prime location in downtown Columbia, Silverball Arcade & Bar offers several options for entertainment. You can book the venue for events or simply stop by for drinks, conversation, and to play arcade games with friends. The venue is open to individuals ages 18 and above and is located at 122 S. Ninth St. 

“With the location of Silverball being so close to the campuses, it’s been a great place for the parents of students who are coming into town for a game or just to visit their children to go,” Nic adds. “It brings back a sense of nostalgia for the parents and they get to hang out with the kids in a way that brings lots of laughter and smiles.”  

Giving back, whether it is through experiences or philanthropy, is a belief that Nic holds dear to his heart.  

“I had a teacher that I admired a lot, Evelyn Crews. She was so inspiring and caring towards her students,” Nic reflects quietly. “I wanted to be a teacher just like her. She passed away from cancer in 2017. It’s hard when you lose someone that you admired so much.”  

 Nic was invited to the “Tigers on the Prowl” event soon afterward. He was introduced to the gentleman behind the fundraiser, Charles “Chuck” Crews.  

“When it dawned on me that this was Evelyn’s husband, I was thrilled,” Nic says. “I just fell in love with this fundraiser, to the point that I’ve been with them for over twelve years now as president.”  

The collaborative fundraiser benefits select nonprofit agencies in mid-Missouri, evolving into a gala that brings together artists, nonprofits, and community members to celebrate and support each other. Tigers on the Prowl has raised more than one million dollars for local charities to date.  

“I’m proud of the support and philanthropy that we have in Columbia,” Nic says. “This is a great community that supports our youth, nonprofits, and organizations. It is like Christmas to me when I see the smiles that our fundraising brings to our recipients through this fundraiser.” 

When asked where Nic Park sees himself in ten years, Nic stops to think, then smiles and says, “One of my favorite quotes is by Walt Disney.” He continues, “’If you dream it, you can do it.’ We even have that quote on our employees’ shirts at Lakeside.”  

What is Nic dreaming about for his next project? He smiles and laughs, answering, “Well, I’ve always liked water parks.” 

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