Lighthouse shines under blazing sun

Michael and Nancy Jo Smith and their helpers find that digging in dirt can be fun.
Michael and Nancy Jo Smith and their helpers find that digging in dirt can be fun.

More than 40 people gathered under a tent in 100-degree heat Tuesday afternoon to watch a woman play in the dirt.

But Lighthouse Entertainment’s Nancy Jo Smith has made a career of child’s play, and the groundbreaking for the Lighthouse Entertainment Complex off Beckford Drive in the Northpark development marked the start of construction on her latest dream.

At Smith’s side was her husband, Michael. She said he lets her come up with the dreams, and he clears the way to turn them into reality.

“I have the energy level of a 15-year-old,” Nancy Smith said.

“An 8-year-old,” joked Bill Edwards, the president of the Henderson-Vance County Chamber of Commerce.

That puts Smith right in line to get the maximum enjoyment out of the new entertainment complex when it opens late this year. The heart of the 28-foot-high, 9,800-square-foot complex will be two rooms containing massive inflatable play areas that will be available for birthday parties and, on Tuesdays and Thursdays, for open, pay-by-the-hour play. The play areas are designed for children up to age 12.

With the inflatables deflated, the entertainment complex will offer a 4,800-square-foot rental space for up to 324 people to gather for celebrations such as weddings. The building also will have four party rooms that will double as meeting rooms.

“We want to be an asset to the community,” Smith told the crowd of friends, family, employees and other supporters. The Rev. John Miles provided the blessing for the event.

Edwards said the community does and should support the Smiths and their company. In addition to the entertainment complex, Lighthouse will continue to operate the Marketplace Cinema and to provide inflatables and a variety of other services for celebrations at homes and businesses.

County Commissioner Tommy Hester, a partner in the Northpark development, praised the Smiths as an example of local small-business people benefiting the community. He said such entrepreneurs are a good sign for Vance County’s future.

“A lot of exciting things will be happening in the next five years,” Hester said.

For Nancy Smith, one of those exciting things will be the day contractor Robert Light finishes the Lighthouse Entertainment Complex. She was happy to share Tuesday’s excitement with so many people on the cleared dirt lot that is behind the Social Security Administration building and backs up to Interstate 85.

“With this heat, I would have to really love somebody to come out,” she said, “so I feel really loved.”