Out with the carpet! An Abacoa original restaurant gets total makeover

4:27 p.m Thursday, Nov. 16, 2017 Local
A Michael Jordan photo inside the newly renovated Stadium Grill in downtown Abacoa. (Richard Graulich / The Palm Beach Post)

With a new name and a $300,000 renovation, Abacoa’s oldest restaurant plans a grand re-opening Friday.

“We are buying into the growth of the local business community,” said Dennis Witkowski, a Wellington resident who has operated JJ Muggs Stadium Grill — its new moniker will be Stadium Grill — since 2001.

Carpets are out and wood floors are in at the two-story restaurant/bar walking distance from Roger Dean Stadium. There are new tables and chairs, the upstair and downstair bars have been replaced, 32 television sets have been installed and there are new restrooms. There’s a new menu by executive chef Rick Ayers.

The Stadium Grill renovations are another step in improving Downtown Abacoa, said Josh Simon, whose company bought the property in 2015 for $5.1 million.

Since then, FLF ATC LLC has added about two dozen tenants, including Civil Society Brewing and Aaron’s Table restaurant on the site of the old Rooney’s restaurant. New landscaping, signs, sidewalks and outdoor murals have been added. Construction on a new 18-hole miniature golf course is planned to start in the next couple weeks.

Near Downtown Abacoa, groundbreaking is expected next year for the Cinebowl & Grill, a $22 million entertainment center with bowling lanes, movies, restaurants and pool tables.

On the south side of Donald Ross Road across from Abacoa, the Alton development is bringing about 2,700 homes. Offices, retail, biotech and a hotel also are planned.

“The renovation of Stadium Grill is a continuation of bringing quality businesses to Downtown Abacoa,” said Simon.

Renovations at Stadium Grill started in July, said Ryan Witkowski, an Abacoa resident who shares ownership with his father Dennis of the 6,300-square-foot restaurant that employs 40 people.

“The workers were here from 5 a.m. — sometimes until midnight,” said Witkowski, 38.

After graduating from Fordham University in 1969 where he played center for the basketball team, the 6-foot-8-inch elder Witkowski played two years for the Washington Generals. They were the hapless basketball team that played the foils to the legendary Harlem Globetrotters.

“We lost 500 straight games. We played seven days a week. We’d go months without having a day off. They were a great bunch of guys and I loved travelling around the world,” said Dennis Witkowski, sitting on the refurbished second floor of the new Stadium Grill.

WATCH: Dennis Witkowski talks about playing against Harlem Globetrotters.

The Stadium Grill has the obligatory photos of sports heroes on the walls.

There’s a yellow-shirted Jack Nicklaus finishing a shot. Michael Jordan flying through the air. Muhammad Ali standing over a prone Sonny Liston. Babe Ruth and Joe DiMaggio posing with their pals. Miami Marlins Giancarlo Stanton swinging for the fences.

But there’s only one photo for St. Louis Cardinals fans. It’s a shot of Busch Stadium with the Gateway Arch in the background.

That’s not enough for the red-shirted baseball fans who will be arriving in March to cheer for their team in spring training at Roger Dean, said Ryan Witkowski.

“Yeah, we’re going to have to get more photos for the Cardinal fans,” he said.

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