DNA US Conference Reveals Speakers and Initial Supporters
The list of speakers for the Digital Out-of-Home Interactive Entertainment (DOE) conference in October boasts some of the leading names in the emerging sector. The conference will take place in Los Angeles, Calif., Oct. 2 and 3.
Speakers will include: Chris Stapleton offering a keynote address, Marc-Antoine Pinard, David Young, Kevin Williams, Julie Eckert, Jon Hussman, Karl Floyd, Ed Lantz, Clark Dodsworth, Anne White, Cammie Dunaway, Matthew Nelson, Craig Hanna, Bruno Uzzan, Brian Selzer, Bryan Lee, Ernest Yale, Brent Young, Dan Jamele, Mark Stutz, Jon Fox, Jon Epstein, Vincent John Vincent, Eric Mauriello, Mark Schmitz, Jack Hattingh, Eric Davis, Barry Threw, Joshua Cohen, Dave Lorenzini, Brent Bushnell, Jamison Selby and Sean Anderson. Session moderators include: Randy White, Greg Roach, Courtney Rayburn, Harod Tan, Philip Lelyveld, Kevin Williams and Eric Davis.
The Digital Out-of-Home Interactive Entertainment Network Association (DNA) Conference is an international seminar event for the Digital Out-of-Home Interactive Entertainment (DOE) sector – covering manufacturers, suppliers and operators of Video Amusement, Interactive Digital Attractions and Simulators, Content Provider, Digital Kiosks, ExerGaming, KidTainment /Videmption, Digital Hospitality, RetailTainment and EduTainment. The conference is part of the DNA Association, operated exclusively by KWP; a groundbreaking organization representing those working in this sector. For additional information and registration, visit http://dnaconference.org. For further information on attending, supporting and sponsorship opportunities, or details about the conference, please contact Michael Mascioni, project manager,
Amusement Entertainment Management (AEM) Completes Seven New Projects in 12 Months
From the development of a 73,000-square-foot Boutique Bowling/Luxury Movie Theater to an 11,000-square-foot FEC addition at an RV Campground, Amusement Entertainment Management (AEM) has been busy this past year assisting new entertainment centers and existing locations to open their doors or bring their projects to successful completion.
In a time when lending institutions are more likely to turn away funding requests, AEM consultants, Jerry Merola and Frank Seninsky, have been assisting clients through the process of full market feasibility studies and business plan development that has directly resulted in the necessary financial support needed to get these projects off the ground. In addition to feasibility studies and business plans, AEM’s project development includes layout and design services for existing game zones to entire entertainment centers – from ground breaking to grand opening.
Paul Glantz, of Emagine Entertainment, remarked, “To take on a new business venture like this, you need someone on your team with intense knowledge of the industry. The experience and expertise AEM brought to the table was invaluable. This was critical when trying to obtain financing at a time when banks were not inclined to extend credit.” Emagine Star Lanes (www.star-lanes.com) is a 73,000-square-foot, $19 million entertainment venue in Royal Oak, Mich., that offers boutique bowling, pool tables, shuffleboard, a luxury 10-screen digital movie theater, restaurants and two custom-themed bars. AEM was hired to provide a full market feasibility study and to also suggest design elements for the center that would enhance the overall economics of the business.
Bob-O’s Family Fun Center in El Paso, Texas, (www.bobosfun.com) partnered with AEM to provide a partial redesign of their 2,400-square-foot game zone, which included the removal of existing walls for better flow, mapping out electrical needs and the picking and placement of games. “Game revenues have almost doubled since making the changes that AEM suggested,” said Bobby Walker, owner/operator. “Prior to working with AEM, we revenue-shared games with a local operator. Unfortunately he could not afford to keep new or quality games in our location. Now we own 40 games and are keeping 100 percent of the profit.”
The most recent AEM project, The WOW Factory in Coconut Creek, Fla., (www.wowfactoryfun.com) opened on June 7, 2012. This 22,000-square-foot entertainment complex houses the largest Ropes Course and Ballocity in southern Florida, a laser tag arena, a Lazer Frenzy maze, climbing walls, a game zone, party rooms, café and sweet shop. AEM provided full scope feasibility services, including site selection. In addition, AEM was retained to provide full development services, including lease negotiation, procurement of financing, attraction and vendor selection, navigation through city planning, development of the human resource plan and operational strategies.
To find out more about recent project completions, visit www.AEMLLC.com.
Conference Reveals Speakers and Initial Supporters Walking on Water, It’s Not What You Think
New Water Attraction Opens in Golden’s Heritage Square
The latest attraction by the Amaze ‘n Maze group, Water Walkerz, debuted at Golden’s Heritage Square recently to add a fresh splash to the Miner’s Maze Adventureland. In this unusual twist on water antics, kids (and adults) can climb into one of the big, clear plastic rubber balls and then “walk,” crawl, float or bob along the surface of the water while trying to keep their balance inside the moving “beach ball” as they propel themselves forward. With one good push, water walkers can percolate their way across the surface of the giant pond, and never get wet.
Water Walkerz opened on May 5 and is the most recent addition to the Miner’s Maze Adventureland within Heritage Square. Also new this year is the 24-foot Spider Slide for those who want to stay on dry land. Sliders have to climb up and through a human-scaled “web” before sliding down the giant slide. Other diversions within the fun park include the signature attraction, the Miner’s Maze, a labyrinth that offers an extra dimension of challenge because of its two-story design. Then there is the Rio Grande train ride around the park; the Silver Spring Bungee that offers kid-sized leaping experiences; the Magic Mountain Climb’n Wall for a rock climbing experience; the Web Crawl, a vertical web scaling challenge; and the Tunnel Tumbler, a spinning tube that has entrants literally climbing the ever-turning walls. The Jewel Jump ‘n Bouncy is where the hyperactive can go from climbing the walls to bouncing off them. If cooling down by getting wet is a priority, Squirt Gun Fun is the place for some refreshing water drenching inside the Miner’s Maze.
“Heritage Square was the perfect place for us to expand from land-based attractions to a water-focused adventure because it gets plenty hot in the summers and water attractions are a great way to cool off in an amusement park,” explained Jared Vasold, partner of the Miner’s Maze Adventureland. “We weren’t sure how people would respond to the unusual ‘dry’ water attraction within the park but kids and adults have really loved climbing into these huge inflatable beach balls and then trying to maneuver them across the water,” he claimed.
But the real test of any amusement park attraction is based on its harshest critics, the kids who try it.
“The Water Walkerz are awesome,” said Dakota West of Lakewood, Colo. “I wish I could do them everyday.”
For Lily Perez of Denver, it was the ideal place for an important celebration. “My birthday party was so much fun and the Water Walkerz are my favorite,”
The Vollrath® Company Acquires Polar Ware®/Stoelting®
Acquisition Extends Vollrath’s Offering in Array of Foodservice Categories
Vollrath President and Chief Executive Officer Paul Bartelt, announced the acquisition of Kiel, Wis., based Polar Ware Company, including the Stoelting operation. Stoelting is a diverse manufacturer with three primary divisions: food service, cleaning and process equipment. Polar Ware is also a varied, multi-industry manufacturer that predominantly serves the foodservice industry by providing a selection of smallwares, serving equipment and components for OEM customers.
Stoelting’s Foodservice Division offers a broad and premium line of soft serve ice cream and frozen beverage dispensing equipment that supports a fast-growing area in food service menu development. Stoelting supplies freezers to thousands of retail and foodservice companies, and is recognized as a leader in frozen treat technology. The company’s full line of frozen treat equipment in countertop or floor models, includes soft serve, custard, shake, batch freezers and frozen beverage equipment including slush and carbonated slush offerings.
Stoelting’s Cleaning Equipment Division designs and manufactures a complete line of industrial parts cleaning equipment for general industrial and electronics assembly applications.
The company’s Process Solutions Division designs and manufactures a full line of USDA-approved cheese-making equipment, with a long history of providing high-quality cheese vats, curd tables, block formers, draining and matting conveyors, as well as salting belts.
PolarWare has been providing foodservice products for industry professionals with an extensive selection of durable, high quality, deep drawn products for the food service and healthcare industries. The food service product line includes steam table pans, chafing dishes, stock pots, mixing bowls, serving trays and utensils, and a wide variety of other kitchen items.
In terms of operations, Polar Ware and Stoelting will remain separate entities under The Vollrath Company and continue to service their existing channels. Both companies will conduct business as usual for the foreseeable future.
“Combining with Polar Ware/Stoelting allows Vollrath to diversify and greatly expand our offering of equipment and smallwares and it further establishes Vollrath as a
food service industry leader,” said Bartelt. “Also, we will continue to support Stoelting’s strong engineering and manufacturing capabilities, enabling the company to continue to
service its customers in this growing segment of the foodservice market.”
Both Vollrath and Polar Ware can trace their roots back to 1874 when Jacob J. Vollrath opened his first enamelware plant in Sheboygan, Wis. In 1907, Andrew Vollrath, Jacob’s son, left The Vollrath Company to establish the Polar Ware Company.
“It is wonderful to see these two family-owned businesses come back together again after more than 100 years,” commented Terry Kohler, current owner of Vollrath and great-great-grandson of Jacob Vollrath. “Together, we can create an even stronger company that is positioned for continued success. It also furthers both our family’s long-standing commitment to the well-being of the greater Sheboygan area community.”
Walter Vollrath, the current Polar Ware owner and great-grandson of Andrew Vollrath, added, “Four generations of Vollrath’s have been at the helm of the Polar Ware Company, and I feel very honored to be one of them. I, my wife Mary Jo, and daughters Kate and Anna feel God has extremely blessed our family. We know that the reuniting of these companies, as well as the Kohler and Vollrath families will lead to the ongoing growth of our businesses, our employees and our community.”
For more than 137 years, The Vollrath Company, L.L.C., has been setting the standard as a manufacturer of quality equipment and smallwares supplies for the foodservice industry. Vollrath offers the largest selection and best value for prep, cook and serve food service solutions. Established in 1905, Stoelting’s tradition of quality, performance and environmental awareness is the result of many years of experience in equipment design, fabrication and manufacture. Since 1907, Polar Ware has been providing products for industry professionals with an extensive selection of durable, high quality, deep drawn products and serving equipment.
Brevard Zoo Achieves More Than Token Success with Quarters for Conservation Program
For the past year the Brevard Zoo has participated in the Quarters for Conservation project, where 25 cents from each admission is used to fund a conservation project. Since its inception on January 1, 2011 the program has generated $38,546, which has helped to fund nine conservation projects. But in addition to the money raised, the program is helping to educate visitors about conservation and how they can help. Clearly those are more than token results.
The idea came from other American Zoological Association member zoos.
“There are more than a dozen AZA zoos participating in Quarters for Conservation” said Brevard Zoo Conservation Coordinator Tracy Frampton. “And that figure continues to grow. Each zoo handles the program as they see fit. We really like the idea of educating visitors about the many projects that we undertake. Engaging and empowering them – letting visitors know that their vote really counts – that is also important to us.”
To engage and empower zoo patrons, each visitor is given a brass token as they enter the turnstiles. Each token represents a quarter – that portion of their admission that goes directly to fund conservation projects. Shortly beyond the turnstiles, visitors encounter three collection units complete with graphics that detail a particular project. Since the tokens are essentially a vote for a particular project, the Quarters for Conservation program is an interactive approach that draws visitors in to the zoos conservation programs and priorities.
“Many of our visitors live around here so they are amazed at the local projects that we get involved with,” Frampton said.
Every three months, three new projects are introduced and the three that were just included are funded as the voting dictates. Among the projects that have benefitted from the program include a butterfly garden built on the grounds, as well as purchasing tools used for butterfly surveys. They’ve also undertaken projects with dolphins, right whales, hornbills, cheetah, rhinos and coral. Brevard Zoo is heavily involved with oyster reef restorations and mangrove projects, which have both been funded by the program.
“Mangroves are very important to habitats in the Indian River lagoon,” said Frampton. “One of our projects is a mangrove restoration and headstarting program” she continued. “Here we help grow the mangroves, then we turn them over to the DEP but we also help to plant them.”
Another project restores oyster reefs by creating mats using oyster shells and deploying them in the Indian River Lagoon. The young oysters think they found a great place to settle and begin a new reef within a few months.
The program has been very successful in raising awareness and funding of the various projects. Frampton opted for a standard design on the second batch of 10,000 tokens, which were ordered from a company she found online, Cincinnati’s TokensDirect.com.
Given all of the advantages, awareness, education, engaging of visitors and vital funding of conservation projects, it is clear that Brevard Zoo has achieved more than token results from their Quarters for Conservation program.
Spare Time Entertainment Is Re-opening
Spare Time Entertainment in Lansing, Mich., closed its doors for a renovation and overhaul in early 2012. During this down time, the facility revamped the food menu, added new effects to the bowling alley, and installed an Urban-themed laser tag arena from Creative Works.
“Even though we haven’t opened quite yet, we’ve walked some people through the arena,” said Bill Assande of Spare Time. “With all of the lights and effects in there, it looks fantastic.”
Kennedy Space Center’s 50th Anniversary Celebration Includes Nod to the Past and Look to the Future
The Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex celebrated the 50th anniversary of Kennedy Space Center on July 1 with a program that included NASA officials discussing the historic spaceport and the dynamic transformation underway to support the next generation of space exploration.
Beginning the program was the panel discussion, “Kennedy Space Center: Past, Present and Future,” at the Astronaut Encounter Theater. The select NASA panel was scheduled to include Carol Scott of the Program Control and Integration Office within the Commercial Crew Program, and Stu McClung of the Orion Crew/Service Module Office.
Also, the 65-member Orlando Concert Band was scheduled to perform and Scott Bolton, principal investigator for NASA’s Juno mission, was scheduled to speak.
The 50th anniversary programming was complimentary to guests with paid admission.
“This is a great occasion for everyone who loves John F. Kennedy Space Center,” said Bill Moore, chief operating officer of the visitor complex. “For 50 years, Kennedy has been the gateway to space, carrying astronauts into space aboard rockets and space shuttles, launching space exploration devices and constructing the International Space Station.
The Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex features many attractions and year-round interactive programs, including meeting real astronauts.
Tourist Attractions & Parks Magazine Newsletter Editorial Feature
Top Customer Service Tips for Leisure Entertainment Facilities
Guests will try any leisure entertainment facility once, for the attractions and, in most cases, the food. However, unless they are afforded good customer service, there is no guarantee of a return visit, and the potential that a bad experience will be recounted to others.
Providing quality customer service is heavily contingent on employee training. Rather than limiting new employee orientation to procedures for handling admissions, operating attractions and the like, savvy owners and operators devote time and effort to showing staff members the customer service ropes. Funtasia Family Fun Park in Edmonds, Wash., devotes an entire section of its employee handbook to “scripts” for employees to use when describing ticket packages, attempting to steer groups to group pricing options, keeping ticket sales traffic moving to prevent upsetting guests without rushing others who appear indecisive, and more. The section features standard responses to frequently asked questions. A duplicate copy of these questions and the correct responses is kept at the front desk, so that employees have no “excuse” to “wing it” on the customer service front.
Similarly, at Oasis Bowl & Family Fun Center in Fallon, Nev., new employees work alongside more seasoned staff members for several days before they are permitted to interact with guests. This reinforces verbal messages about customer service expectations communicated during staff members’ first few days on the job, reported Milton Wallace, manager. “Many times, seeing it is easier than hearing it,” Wallace asserted. Family Fun Center in Tukwila, Wash., follows much the same strategy. Individuals who have just come on board observe their colleagues as they interact with customers while selling tickets, distributing prizes at the prize desk and manning attractions.
However, it is important to remember that because “good customer service skills are not natural for most people, no matter what their age, effective customer service training must be reinforced and taught on a recurring basis,” asserted Gregory Smith, president of human resources and workplace management consulting firm Chart Your Course International. Smith advocates regularly demonstrating and reinforcing appropriate customer service principles. One of his family entertainment center clients maintains a list of “customer service commandments,” which range from courteously volunteering to find the answers to guests’ inquiries instead of claiming ignorance or referring visitors to an equally unknowledgeable co-worker, to remaining calm and non-defensive when on the receiving end of visitors’ complaints. Before each shift begins, supervisors conduct daily “line-ups” where one commandment is reviewed and practiced.
Meanwhile, the owner of another facility holds monthly meetings at which supervisors discuss common customer service-related issues, such as complaints, questions and even unreasonable requests, and demonstrate, via role-playing, how they should be handled.
Randy Hutchinson, CEO of White Hutchinson Leisure & Learning Group, agrees that training has much to do with appropriate customer service. Nonetheless, he also believes it stems from fine-tuning the “architects of service, both for the design of the physical facility and the business systems and procedures.” Specifically, he said, prize redemption counters should be designed to facilitate rapid service—in other words, large enough so that multiple guests waiting their turn for assistance can at least see the merchandise, staff members can easily identify the next guest to be waited upon and guests need not be compelled to jump up and down to get employees’ attention; as well as with software that enables multiple redemption transactions to be handled simultaneously.
Toward the same end, snack bar/dining operations should be set up so that there is sufficient equipment capacity to prepare food rapidly and fill orders promptly even during peak traffic times. Owners and operators whose facilities do a big business in parties would do well to improve the caliber of customer service by establishing an easy-to-find party and group check-in area where guests can go to “meet up with the party host and have their presents collected to later be delivered to the party room so parents don’t have to lug them around with them,” according to White.
Frank Price, founder of Birthday University, corroborated White’s comments, adding that leisure entertainment facilities of all types must, in light of heightened competition, offer a higher level of customer service than ever before. For example, instead of only supervising and serving children at birthday parties, Price noted that employees (or “Party Heroes”) should be charged with telephoning the “party parent” days ahead of time, introducing themselves, asking for details about the customer’s expectations and the birthday child’s preferences. A ‘Party Hero’ says, ‘I’ll also fill you in on what to do and what you don’t have to worry about, because we’ll have it all under control,’ ” Price stated. “The ‘Party Hero’ asks permission to speak with the birthday child personally, to get to know him or her better by asking questions like ‘What’s your favorite movie and cartoon character?, ‘Who’s your best friend?’ ‘ Do you play any sports?’ and ‘What are your favorites?,’ ” so that he or she can plan activities for a more personalized party.”
A “Party Hero” also actively engages guests during all portions of the party, from addressing them by name during the activities portion of the event to telling jokes and performing tricks in the party room or area, Price asserted.
“Neither simple paper or emailed ‘yes-and-no’ surveys, nor a smattering of informal chats with guests as they leave your facility, provide enough information to make a difference in customer service,” stated Bob Negen, of WhizBang! Training, a retail and hospitality consulting firm. “Both need to be structured so that the responses have more ‘meat’ to them.”
Smith also recommended that proprietors and supervisory personnel at leisure entertainment facilities improve customer service training, and hence, customer service itself, by periodically eliciting visitor feedback about this issue using anonymous written surveys guests can take home or complete online via facilities’ websites. “For every complaint you receive, there are “at least 10 more” that visitors “just didn’t share,” but may be very valuable, Smith said.
When it comes to printed and emailed surveys, including open-ended questions are a must. Andy Alligator’s Fun Park in Norman, Okla., emails a survey to customers one week after they have held a birthday party there. In addition to such “yes-and-no” queries as whether they were satisfied with the food served at the event, recipients are asked to list specific comments and suggestions for improving the guest experience at the park. Extra time in the party room and a larger selection of food options for adults have already been introduced based on survey feedback, and guest satisfaction is on the upswing. The same is true at Funway Entertainment Center in Batavia, Ill., which added a bowling center and increased its roster of special deals and birthday party options based on solicited feedback, said Bob Hansen, owner.