Entertainment Centers with Laser Tag:
Money-Saving Maintenance Ideas

By Jen Heller Meservey


Piggy bank and coinsLaser tag involves electronic components that can become maintenance headaches for entertainment centers. John McFarlane, manager of The Lost City in Holland, Mich., knows this all too well. “If we’re unable to repair a pack, or we run out of parts, our 32-player system becomes a 31-player system,” he said. “If a pack goes down in the middle of a busy Saturday, we might not be able to repair it that day, even if we have the parts. So, preventative maintenance is key. If you can catch an issue early, you can usually stop it before it gets worse and ends up costing you money in missed revenue.”

McFarlane offered several suggestions for preventative maintenance when it comes to laser tag equipment, including the use of compressed air. “We often use compressed air to keep components and circuit boards clean,” he said. “Keeping your circuitry clean prevents a lot of headache and burned out components. Compressed air cans are cheap, and it’s a quick process to blow the dust off the circuit boards.”

McFarlane recommended learning to solder to help keep laser tag equipment functioning properly. “The truth is, circuit boards aren’t as complicated as they seem, and usually repairing them is a simple matter of finding the one burned out or malfunctioning component and replacing it,” he explained. “Being able to repair a circuit board means not having to send it in to the manufacturer for repair, which can often take a week or more. More packs equal more money!” However, McFarlane advises caution when attempting to solder. “Soldering is a skill that takes a little practice to really get down,” he said. “Before you accidentally destroy your valuable laser tag equipment, you may want to spend time practicing removing and re-soldering components on something cheap like solar calculators.”

Testing equipment is the best way to identify maintenance issues early on, according to McFarlane. He said he regularly tests equipment like batteries, vest chargers and packs. Robin Wilcox, owner of Lazer Kraze in Lewis Center, Ohio, agreed that testing equipment is important. “We proactively have a tech session to check to ensure all laser tag gear is working correctly,” she said. “From lights to sensor boards to speakers, having gear down for busy times can mean huge costs via loss of revenue for that day and residual customer complaints. We ensure the gear is in top shape for busy times.”

McFarlane said also checks the arena for possible issues. “Just as important as the laser tag equipment is the arena itself,” he said. “You want to make sure your arena is as safe for people as it can be. Torn clothes, scratches and scrapes can ruin the customer’s experience. It doesn’t take long to do, and it prevents disaster.”

Jerry Weber, owner of The Web in West Chester, Ohio, said that preventative maintenance starts with using high quality equipment. “The number one maintenance tip really has to do with the original design and construction,” he said. “We discovered that making sure the walls, and especially the props, are really solid and can withstand the punishment of laser tag play is critical. Our first arena did not follow these principles and we spent a lot of time and money over the years constantly fixing them.”

Sam Elias, CEO of WhirlyBall in Chicago, Ill., said he found a simple solution to common maintenance issues. “The biggest money-saving improvement we made to our new laser tag arena was to install rubber flooring in lieu of carpet,” he said. “Over time, carpet wears, frays and becomes a trip hazard, not to mention looking shabby.”

As Founder and former Executive Director of the International Laser Tag Association, Curator of the Laser Tag Museum and Vice President of Sales and Marketing at Zone Laser Tag in Dover, Del., Erik Guthrie is a leading authority on laser tag facilities and equipment. He recommended taking a hands-on approach to maintenance in order to keep costs down. “Costs are reduced significantly by having staff replace or repair the little things in the facility,” he explained. “For example, YouTube has numerous DIY video tutorials on how to fix simple plumbing problems for which a plumber can charge service fees, parts and labor charges. Replacing lights with now low-cost LED lighting, regularly changing air filters, and checking drip trays and seals will increase energy savings and decrease HVAC maintenance costs.”

Guthrie said that lighting is an easy way to save money on maintenance. “We are in the process of replacing PAR can lights with LED PAR cans that are DMX controlled,” he said. “This allows our lighting to be utilized only when required.” Guthrie added that using a barter system can save even more. “Bartering tickets or passes with staff and maintenance workers will often save money by getting professional help at discounted prices,” he said.

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