Port Arthur day care owner set sights on new venue, splash pad & more

Published 12:38 am Tuesday, December 14, 2021

In the back of the parking lot of The Clubhouse day care sits a 2,400-square-feet building that has a brand new purpose.

Michelle Barnette has owned and operated the successful day care for approximately 22 years and is turning the extra building into the Balloon Barn.

She’s using her talent for creating balloon garlands along with unique candied apples into another business.

Michelle Barnette smiles for the camera inside her day care. (Mary Meaux/The News)

And there’s also a new splash pad.

The idea for the new venue and business came after getting calls from people wanting to rent the gym/building for a child’s birthday party. They’ve also been gender reveals and baby showers in the facility.

The more people who came and saw the site, the more the word spread.

Barnette visited the Port Arthur Economic Development Corporation recently, where she was approved for an infrastructure economic incentive. This was just the start in the PAEDC process. She plans on working on a detailed plan over the next few weeks to then return to the PAEDC and present board members with her information. Port Arthur City Council will have final approval of any incentives.

On the back side of the building is a mural created by artist Gary Landry. He spent two-and-a-half weeks on the roughly 40-by-15-feet mural, Barnette said.

Water spray battles the wind at the newly-installed splash pad. (Mary Meaux/The News)

The mural is a backdrop for the newly installed splash pad, which has the capacity for 48 children.

“The building has two restrooms in it, a water fountain, an ice maker,” Barnette said. “If it’s in the summertime and you’re doing a party on the splash pad, we have the commercial ice maker. You can fill your ice chests. There are covered tables.”

Barnette will have two basketball goals installed.

She also looks to hire young people such as recent high school graduates to work the parties and clean the building to get to ready for the next party.

The job can be a learning experience for a teen and prepare them for the future, she said.

Tabitha Sutton was at the day care recently with her young child. She worked there for six years and went through nursing school while there. She graduated last December.

Sutton has utilized the building for her gender reveal party and baby shower, she said.

Barnette hopes to have the Balloon Barn open and ready for business by March.