Returning to the music

Published 5:00 pm Saturday, January 22, 2011

The new ballroom at the El Parral is one of four rooms that can accommodate large groups for graduations, weddings, conventions and many other events. - Matt Peterson

For nearly a year, a few dedicated people have been transforming an old building into what is now the El Parral ballroom.

Custodio Serrano and his wife, Jeorgina Maldonado, bought the building in March 2010 with longtime plans to offer something fun for the community.

Formerly the Terp ballroom, the building was vacant but needed many repairs. Walls were missing. Holes and watermarks peppered the ceilings. Paint was chipping off everywhere.

Custodio Serrano and his wife, Jeorgina Maldonado, are in the process of perfecting the multipurpose facility that is now the El Parral ballroom. - Matt Peterson/matt.peterson

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They’ve fixed all those things, but they want to offer more than a typical ballroom. Serrano wants a wide variety of activities —more than just dancing.

To reach that goal, he, his friends and carpenters have begun the huge task of customizing every large room, of which the building now has four.

The largest room houses the stage, dance floor and DJ’s booth, and has party lights and laser effects. Adjacent to that room, an open space serves for smaller parties, and behind it lies a fully furnished bar with another stage.

The fourth room, currently unfinished, will eventually serve as an indoor soccer room.

Serrano considered several other locations for ballrooms in the past; it’s something he’s wanted to open for a long time. He looked at a warehouse in Mapleview, but sources told him it wouldn’t work. Then he considered the restaurant supply store in Austin, but that apparently wouldn’t work either.

When he discovered the Terp was for sale, he was excited because his home is in Austin. He quickly called his longtime friend, Miguel Garate.

“He was crazy about it,” Garate said. The two met while working at Quality Pork Producers in 1998. Since then, Garate helped Serrano learn English, find an apartment and become successful. “He’s a businessman,” Garate added.

So when the opportunity arose, Serrano jumped on it.

Almost $200,000 in renovations later, the ballroom is taking shape. New walls, bathrooms, offices, lights, sprinklers and equipment are just a few of the changes. But Serrano said he still has a long way to go, and he never imagined he would spend this much and take it this far.

“You don’t have any idea what this place looked like,” Garate said. “It was completely different.”

Old pictures, on hand at El Parral, show a brief history of the building. Originally built in 1938, then it was very basic — a large open space without much else.

Although the project has gone farther than anyone thought, Garate said it’s too late for Serrano to turn back now. But that’s okay.

“He’s not a quitter; he’s a fighter,” Garate said.

Serrano and his wife hope that everyone around Austin will use the facility and bring the community closer together. Anybody can book an event at El Parral, but Serrano and Garate have been working on planning their own events to get people in the doors, too.

So far, groups have booked rooms for dances and graduations. Serrano and Garate plan on holding weddings, proms, concerts and group conventions, too.

Some upcoming events include a Valentine’s Day dance and Austin Medical Center convention. However, El Parral has already been hosting a band every weekend.

Soon, it will have its kitchen and offices in place as well, and visitors can expect it to be back to it’s old Terp form or better.

“It’s been empty for too many years,” Garate said.