Business Strategies: New Innovations in Lighting for Leisure Entertainment Facilities

September 26, 2011 No Comments

Owners and operators of leisure entertainment facilities are paying increased attention to their lighting systems. In some cases, illumination is becoming a contributor to the visitor experience and, in many cases, a way to attract a broader range of customers. In others, lighting retrofit initiatives are being undertaken in an effort to conserve energy and be more environmentally responsible.

When it comes to the former, some facilities are employing black lighting, alone and in combination with other lighting, to set them aside from the pack. For example, Medieval Fantasy Miniature Golf in Ocean City, N.J., which now promotes itself as the only indoor-outdoor mini-golf course at the Jersey Shore, has transformed its seven indoor holes (there are 19 in all) to feature black lighting. The light reflects and adds an eerie glow to a series of three-dimensional fantasy scenes replete with spell-casting wizards, snarling griffins and the like.

Manager Ray Bierbrunner said the combination of the black lighting with the fantasy scenes was executed to distinguish Medieval Fantasy from other courses on and near the Ocean City boardwalk, many of which use traditional lighting during the day and at night along with more mundane props like windmills and oversized animal figures. He added that the black lights—a staple of the late 1960s and early 1970s “hippie days”, are particularly appealing to baby-boomer/ex-hippie grandparents accompanying their grandchildren to the course.

Linda Gamble, owner and general manager of Paradise Lanes Family Fun Center in Spartanburg, S.C., has also been successful in leveraging lighting to help expanding her operation’s customer base. At selected times, black lights, along with lasers, strobe lights, and rope lights as well as fog from a fog machine and disco music, are employed to create a nightclub atmosphere. “People of all ages give us great feedback on this, and for teens and adults, it has made bowling cool,” leading to increased party bookings, Gamble said.

Other attempts at creative use of lighting at family entertainment centers are also afoot. Notably, to jazz up Atrox Factory, a haunted house attraction in Leeds, Ala., Owner Paul Johnson has upgraded from white search lights to colored search lights. Johnson believes the colored variety will lend additional impact not possible with traditional illumination.

The interactive Science Storms exhibit at the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago, Ill. represents another case in point. Here, interactive experiments, including a 40-foot-tall tornado of swirling vapor and light, a 20-foot-diameter spinning avalanche disk and an automated heliostat, are illuminated from the ceiling to project wave patterns onto guests below.

On the environmental side, the San Diego Air and Space Museum in San Diego, Calif., replaced its tungsten halogen lighting it currently uses with LED bulbs that were originally in use only in the gift shop.  According to a spokesperson, the change is expected to yield significant energy savings and lower maintenance costs because the LED lamps reportedly last up to 13 years if left on 12 hours a day versus four months for tungsten halogen lamps. Ancillary benefits include the ability to dim the lights without any shift in the color spectrum, more focused illumination without “any of the irregularities that occur when the tungsten halogen passes through lamp lenses”.

Similarly, Wild Adventures Theme Park in Valdosta, Ga. this past season executed a facility-wide replacement of light fixtures and bulbs that involved retrofitting more than 900 light fixtures and replacing 400 lights with energy efficient components. The upgrade has reduced the park’s annual kilowatt consumption by almost six million kilowatts, with a reduction in greenhouse emissions equivalent to the removal of 800 cars from the road. “We are looking into anything we can do to decrease the materials and energy we use” and “help our guests and employees assist in these efforts,” said Evan Schukman, director of maintenance.

Vendors’ recent product introductions support innovation in lighting, whether for creative or energy conservation purposes. Chestnut Identity Apparel has launched colored and clear LED bulbs that are designed to screw into existing light sockets. Jon Chestnut, president, said the bulbs benefit amusement parks not only because they last far longer than turbo light bulbs and yield a dramatic energy savings, but because they use the same caps and lenses currently on a ride, eliminating the need for cap and lends replacement when undertaking a retrofit.

Bulbtronics now provides LED retrofit lamps, including color-changing lamps, as well as black lights.  Color-changing LED bulbs are also part of the amusement channel lighting line from Action Lighting.

Industry News

Creative Works Installs a Vault-themed Lazer Frenzy at Europark in Ecuador

Creative Works recently installed a vault-themed Lazer Frenzy at Europark in Ecuador. This laser maze attraction puts players in a heist scenario as they navigate their way through a field of vibrant lasers to reach the checkpoint. Europark focuses on providing attractions that allow guests to be mobile and active.  The facility boasts a variety of interactive and physically challenging games for guests to play.  Kids can hop into a Euro Ball and bounce around the room in an airtight, padded bubble of a ball.  Or they can roll around in a waterproof ball, bouncing on the top of a pool without ever getting wet.  Patrons can also try their hand (or rather, their foot) at an eight-player station for Dance Dance Revolution.  Perhaps the most interesting game is the I-Floor, which has the ability to perform a number of different games scenarios, all utilizing the pressure-sensitive multi-colored tiles.  Guests can play a game of pong, using their feet to engage the bounce bar, or they can try and avoid randomly moving circles that, if touched, remove a player from the game. With this kind of focus on making sure kids have fun and stay active, Lazer Frenzy was an easy choice for owner Alex Mancero.  He also enjoyed the opportunity to collaborate with Creative Works and develop some additional themed elements for the attraction.  On top of the standard, Alex added some props pieces on the exterior walls to really make the vault theme “pop.”

Creative Works enjoyed the opportunity to install their first attraction in South America.  “Alex came for a Theme Factory tour and we hit it off,” commented Armando Lanuti of Creative Works.  “Everyone at Europark was great to work with and they’ll help us bring Lazer Frenzy to South America!”

Industry News

Great Wolf Lodge Pocono Mountains Unveils “Great Wolf Story Explorers” – Resort’s New Attraction Fuses Classic Pastime with Proprietary Technology

Recognizing that today’s children are growing up in a world where touch-screen tablet, smartphone-using parents expose them to the newest technologies at the youngest ages, Great Wolf Resorts®, Inc., North America’s largest family of  indoor water park resorts, today unveiled its newest attraction, called “Great Wolf Story Explorers.”  Designed with this young, tech-savvy generation in mind, Great Wolf Story Explorers™ is a modern-day adaptation of the classic storytelling experience, but using technology that’s undeniably futuristic.  The new attraction blends the best of classic storytelling, interactive engagement, and imagination into a fully participatory, hi-tech experience that is first-of-its-kind.  Great Wolf Story Explorers is being debuted at Great Wolf Lodge® – Pocono Mountains, Pa., with plans for future installation at other Great Wolf Lodge locations. “The family entertainment landscape is evolving just as rapidly as the technology used by our guests, and that changes expectations entirely,” said Kim Schaefer, CEO of Great Wolf Resorts. “Great Wolf Story Explorers is our expression of how the power of imagination combined with cutting-edge technology can captivate the minds of a whole generation of children who have grown up experiencing entertainment in ways never before seen.”

Built upon a proprietary software platform developed by Creative Kingdoms, creator of the resort’s popular MagiQuest® game, the attraction not only takes its young guests on an adventure throughout the resort, but makes the experience fully interactive by making the players the main characters.  Unlike traditional interactive story-telling, the “explorer” is fully integrated into their chosen story and has the ability to choose their particular course.

The experience begins with the young “explorer” choosing a plush toy, which becomes the child’s companion.  Players then pause to strike several pre-determined poses for a camera before becoming the main character in an interactive story, which will lead them through a series of video screens. As they move from location to location, they must scan the RFID wristband worn by their plush toy at the various video screens.

Each time the RFID wristband is scanned, an animated video character comes to life on-screen, tells more of the story, and guides players to the next stop.  The story, which was developed in collaboration with Creative Kingdoms, is told entirely by the animated characters in the game’s video screens. The same characters are the resort’s animal mascots known as the Great Wolf Kids®.  After completing the entire storybook, players are given a keepsake of their adventure: A personalized storybook, which integrates the photos taken at the beginning of their adventure with the actual story illustrations, literally making them the main characters in the story.

“What’s really exciting about Great Wolf Story Explorers is that it never really ends,” said Maggie Moore, corporate director of kids’ experience for Great Wolf Resorts. “Not only do explorers get to take their plush animals and storybooks home, but there will be new stories for them to experience during future visits.  This is just the first of many stories yet to come.”

The installation of Great Wolf Story Explorers at the company’s Pennsylvania resort is the final phase in a capital project that added over $2.1 million in resort enhancements this year, including a six-lane, scaled-down bowling alley called Scooops Kid Spa, and the remodel of many existing areas throughout the facility.

Industry News

Colorado’s Game Shack Features Laser Tag by Creative Works

Now video gamers have the ability to team up with their friends, in both the virtual gaming world as well as reality.  This will all be possible at the new Game Shack in Aurora, Colo.  In addition to the laser tag attraction, which was installed by Creative Works, this facility will feature LAN playing centers for Microsoft Xbox 360, Nintendo Wii and computers. The majority of this facility will be allocated to these LAN gaming centers.  The facility will be able to host more than 100 players at a time.  Each player will have their own personal X Rocker chair, complete with side speakers, subwoofer and headphone jack.  Gamers will view all the action on their personal 42-inch, high-definition television, creating the most immersive environment possible.  But the immersion doesn’t end with the video games.  The laser tag arena boasts 5,600 square feet of themed space to play in.

Brian Schwartz, the owner, chose Creative Works’ Jungle Quest theme for the attraction. The arena, which can hold 36 players at a time, is filled with vibrant plant life, fallen logs and colorful tiki heads. Giant murals reach up to the peaks of the 28- foot ceilings, creating larger-than-life views of lush jungle landscapes.  “Your team was incredible,” said Brian.  “Mike is an unreal artist and he has brought a whole new level of design to laser tag.  I have every intention of building a second facility, provided things go as planned with this one, and I want your same crew installing that one.”

Creative Works project managed their entire laser tag attraction and assisted facilitating the installation requirements for the laser tag system (Zone Nexus) to help save the client thousands in start-up costs.  “Brian came to us with a desire to create one of the best laser tag arenas in Colorado and we delivered with our brand new Jungle Quest theme,” commented Armando Lanuti of Creative Works.  “His facility will be first class with his attention to detail and drive, along with a great gaming and computer set up not often found in an FEC.”

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