By Jessica Leigh Brown
Family entertainment centers have a little something for every guest to enjoy, from bowling alleys to driving ranges to go-kart courses, depending on the facility. But playing a few rounds of Skee-ball in the arcade is an ever-popular activity, and after showing off their skills, guests get a handful of tickets to spend at the redemption counter. Which prizes are they most likely to choose?
Mustache-themed items are a hit, according to Matt Brockhoss, manager of Champions Fun Center in Lincoln, Neb. “Anything involving mustaches is popular – mustache masks or keychains, for example,” Brockhoss said.
While Lincoln lacks a professional football team, Brockhoss said the most popular redemption prizes are National Football League-related. “We have little NFL footballs that are really popular, mini NFL helmets, and plaques of popular players. Anything sports-related is very popular with the males at least – footballs, basketballs, soccer balls, stuff like that.” He thinks the items move quickly because kids in the area spend a lot of time watching and playing sports. “The NFL players are their role models,” he said.
Champions Fun Center has been open for over a decade and draws around 100,000 guests per year. “We’re a local staple,” said Brockhoss. “We try to attract any age, we have a bowling alley for the older crowd, and the older people like to play some of the arcade games, too.”
At Fun City Pizza in Springdale, Ark., mustaches are on the decline. “The mustaches are trending down a little bit after this past year,” said General Manager Joey McCaslin. “It was kind of a big thing.” A 12,500-square-foot facility with an annual sales figure of over $1 million, Fun City Pizza serves a metro area of about 555,000 in northwest Arkansas. “We’re between the four cities around us, and it’s a nice little community,” McCaslin said. The most popular redemption toys at Fun City Pizza are the ones that stand out. “We still have really good luck with the nicer inflatables, like blow-up chairs and couches,” said McCaslin. “Those are eye-catching pieces that we can hang from the ceiling, and they say to customers, ‘Hey, look at this! Big item here.’ ”
Large items also attract customers’ attention at Party Central in Bossier City, La. “The bigger, the better, I guess,” said owner Bernadette Chandler. But right now, the arcade’s most popular redemption prize is a plush toy. “The plush duck guns toys are our most popular item right now because of the TV show Duck Dynasty,” said Chandler. Party Central sits on 14 acres and welcomes around 200,000 guests per year. “I think this community has around 400,000 residents, and we have steady numbers of customers through the year,” Chandler said. “We do have some seasonal traffic, but mainly the people that come through are local.”
Plush toys enjoy perennial popularity at Adventure Zone Family Fun Center, Geneva-on-the-Lake, Ohio. “On the high end, certainly stuffed animals are our most popular redemption toys,” said co-owner Donniella Winchell. “They tend to be a souvenir whether you’re 4 or 17. We also have teenagers who come to play golf, and the boys will often win stuffed animals for their sweeties.” Bouncy balls hold the record for most popular low-end redemption prize.
“They’re almost invariably used as a filler for leftover tickets for girls and boys, so we go through an enormous amount of bouncy balls,” Winchell said. Located in Ohio’s oldest resort town on Lake Erie, Adventure Zone Family Fun enjoys a seasonal tourist customer base.
“We have about 100,000 tourists come through the area each summer,” said Winchell. “We are within walking distance of a very large hotel, so we get a lot of traffic between weddings and receptions.” The center also benefits from a faction of customers who come to the area to visit family members.
“I call that category VFR – visiting family and relatives,” Winchell said. “Lots of people come home to visit during the fall, so on those weekends, we get a lot of business.” The three-acre park, which is only open seasonally, welcomes between 250,000–300,000 visitors per year.
In the college town of Columbia, Mo., guests at Gunther’s Games aim to win higher-priced items. “Our most popular games have win-them-on-the-spot prizes – they suspend them in the machine,” said Manager Matt Robb. “They outdo the other arcade machines 10 to one.” Robb puts items such as video game consoles, gift cards and prepaid cell phones in the machines – prizes popular with their young adult customer base. –