Total Eclipse New Club Belongs to the Night

by Nathan Oravec

“When I was a kid in Hagerstown, there used to be a barn dance every Saturday night,” recalls Frank Turner fondly. “They’d have music and dancing - and sometimes a comedian. I looked forward to every weekend for that.”

While possibly nostalgic for those barn roof-raising days of yore, himself, Turner, who began what would become a Hagerstown bowling alley dynasty back in 1952 - today numbering three centers in town and one in Martinsburg - most recently threw his hat, not into the ring, but onto the dance floor.

On Friday, February 14, Frank Turner will introduce his newest venture to the public. Known as Eclipse, it is a new kind of barn for this generation’s new kind of barn dance. Over 10,000 square feet of steel, sound and light; a shiny, new future of music, motion and modernity; and like the first flame to the first cave dweller - something bright, hot and fascinating, never before seen by Hagerstown until now.

“I saw a need for this,” says Turner. “Kids today are so active. And there was no place for anybody to go dancing.”

Nearly a year in the making, Eclipse went into production in April of 2002, the brainchild of Turner himself; his contractor; numerous subcontractors from plumbers to electricians; and the many light and sound technicians that have given the club that certain percussive flicker. Located adjacent to Long Meadow Bowl at 19330 Leitersburg Pike in Hagerstown, lanes were removed and machines relocated in the bowling center in order to allow for access and construction. Materials were culled from across the country, as well as from overseas, and a vast music and movie library was purchased, providing Eclipse with a seemingly never-ending supply of high-energy mixes, from pop to punk; alternative, eighties, rock, country and more. “The sound system,” says Turner, “is unbelievable.”

“It’s a beautiful place,” he exclaims, looking over the club’s impressive stainless steel dance floor, currently empty and awaiting Friday’s first crowd, from the balcony behind a sharp yellow banister bordering the walls. Everywhere one looks, the eye meets with yet another sleek concept of design - Mad Max meets Footoose; metal erector-set like girders guarding respective corners of the dance floor, flanked on all sides by countless, hovering, black speakers ready and set to pulse sound over the syncopated masses. Majestic video screens parallel one another, un-drawn now, but housed with the potential to provide patrons with video dance partners in the guise of John Travolta circa Saturday Night Fever and Dirty Dancing Patrick Swayze. Blue, red, and white lamps illuminate from elevated positions, while multidirectional strobes promise to make the light show truly complete. An impeccable image of glass, leather, liquid and gloss, the off central bar - a space-age cantina - allows for refreshment and relaxation for dancers in desperate need of a breather.

“Eclipse is going to be different from any other club in the area,” says Turner. “We’re going to cater to all age groups.” Indeed, the admission plan, an intriguing concept in its own right, is three-tiered. Aiming to be family-friendly, separate nights have been set aside for differing age brackets, allowing everyone interested to visit and try out their best moves. For the teen crowd, Friday nights have just received a new hot spot, with Eclipse opening its doors to customers ages 16 to 20 for two shifts, 6-9 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. - 12:30 a.m. Patrons 21 and older (read: legal drinking age) are invited to the party on Saturday during normal business hours, while Sunday afternoons from 4:30 to 7 p.m. will find the Middle School set, ages 11-15, lining up at the door.

Throughout the week, Turner notes, special promotions - such as Country Night (Wednesday) and Ladies Night (Thursday) will be featured. Local bands, too, will be welcomed to perform, with one youth band ready to go. “Do you remember Dick Clark’s Bandstand?” asks Turner. “We’re going to try to bring that here - to get youth bands to come out and play.”

“We don’t want to be known as a night club,” the owner notes. “We’re for all ages - all entertainment. We want this to be a place that everyone can come to.” With the adjacent complex also featuring a bowling center and the arcade, Turner would rather be considered a recreation complex and entertainment center.

Eclipse’s staff of nearly 30 full and part time employees, he notes, includes trained security personnel whose job it is to oversee the club, insuring a healthy, friendly environment. In addition, teens and youth will be welcomed into a smoke-free surrounding, and will not be permitted to come and go as they please - a time, Turner says, when “trouble” can arise. “Everyone is carded so they won’t be able to go outside and come back in,” he adds. “We want parents to know that when their kids come here - they’ll be safe.”

That being said, the atmosphere of Eclipse promises to be anything but stodgy. The fun is just beginning, and come Friday, Eclipse hopes to redefine the word.

“There might not be anything else in the country like it,” says Turner proudly. “That’s why we call it Eclipse. It might be the only Eclipse you see in your lifetime.”

For more information, including hours and cover charges, call Eclipse, 19330 Leitersburg Pike in Hagerstown, at 301-791-2800.