Facility Design Report: Laser Tag

By Carimé Lane

A great laser tag facility design and theme deliver the ultimate in fun and fair play.
German Garcia-Fresco, owner of NC-based Xtreme Park Adventures, sees 30,000 visitors at his outdoor park annually, roughly 10,000 of which are laser tag attendees. Garcia-Fresco let his choice of material guide him towards a design and theme for his laser tag field. He chose shipping containers as the main materials for the laser tag field because of their simplicity, and for the various ways they can be designed. For instance: they can be opened, cut and stacked.

A group of laser tag players at Kersey Valley Attractions in North Carolina. The field is modeled after a military installation.

Next, he brainstormed where you might find these containers in everyday life, and one of those areas was at the docks. The end result is a dock-themed laser tag arena–“it’s very rustic, grungy and industrial–inside and out,” he said.
They have no plans to change the current design or theme, but do plan to expand and add a new prison-themed laser tag arena.
To keep traffic flowing in the game, Garcia-Fresco said every container has multiple entries and exits and “multiple staircases to various levels, so you never get stuck in one particular spot.”

Barry Zelickson, owner, Big Thrill Factory. The company has three locations in Minnesota. Originally a Willy Wonka factory theme, the attractions have evolved into more of an adult-type factory theme.

“We study how people play–we notice mistakes. For example, we [may] find there is a spot where, when one person stands there, they can kill everybody. We move a wall, add an obstacle, or create some sort of diversion [to eliminate that issue].”
At Kersey Valley Attractions, the action is also outdoors on an 80-acre North Carolina farm. Tony Wohlgemuth, owner, said they modelled their laser tag field after an army installation. The field is decorated with bombs (made of fuel tanks from big jets), military containers, ammo boxes and a general’s car.
Wohlgemuth said, over the years, they added more items in the field–like barriers to hide behind–and have recently installed some large water tanks to change the look.

Two players at an arcade game and a redemption counter at Big Thrill Factory locations. The attractions also feature outdoor activities.

They used to have the playing arena located in open fields, but, when summer hit, they noticed how hot visitors got. So, they moved the playing field into the woods–which Wohlgemuth said works well in all seasons.
Both boys and girls get into the military theme (and adults inquire about adult-only games after watching their kids play).
“We see customers coming in full camo makeup, ghillie suits and camo gear,” Wohlgemuth said.
After check-in, when the players head through the woods across the creek towards the battlefield, Wohlgemuth said there’s a paratrooper hanging from a huge oak tree.
“The paratrooper takes it to another level,” said Wohlgemuth. “When the surround system comes on, it blows [the players’] minds. You feel like there’s a war going on.”

Shenaniganz Co-owner Parker Coddington . The company has two centers in Texas where the most is made of the available square footage.

Based on customer feedback, Wohlgemuth has found it’s best to confine the playing field to a 200-by-3,000-foot space. “We’ve determined the size based on customer feedback on how long it took to get to middle of the field to the home base,” said Wohlgemuth. They also optimized the size of the group down to 40 players for regular groups, so check-in time would take within 45 minutes for a two-hour game.
Based in four locations in Cincinnati, North Kentucky, North Columbus and Columbus, Lazer Kraze is themed as a “futuristic outpost somewhere in the galaxy.”
Wilcox said they designed and built out all of their locations. The primary factors they considered were efficiently using the space and accommodating their other attractions, Wilcox said.
“We wanted a black light arena and didn’t want to go with a canned theme from a vendor.  We worked with a local scene design firm to come up with the concept and have carried that design forward with each store we opened,” Wilcox explained.
To avoid cross-traffic, Wilcox said they paid particular attention to the laser tag score board area and entrance to the laser tag briefing rooms to avoid cross traffic.  “We have a separate laser tag entrance and exit again to avoid cross traffic. We also position our party rooms away from the main arcade,” Wilcox said.
Inside the laser tag arena, there are no dead ends, and the two newest arenas have four bases to support games with four teams. “The arena is symmetric so players from each team face the same or very similar layout as they move from their base across the arena to the opposing teams base,” Wilcox noted.  
Barry Zelickson, owner of Big Thrill Factory–with three locations in Minnesota–said they based the theme, and design around their big thrill factory branding. At first, that meant they went with a Willy Wonka factory theme. But, as they grew, their customer base changed, and the theming evolved into a more adult-orientated factory.
Since the Big Thrill Factory houses several other activities, they built a central path that flows through their facility to keep traffic flowing. This path also leads guests to outdoor seasonal activities.

A group of laser tag players at a Big Thrill Factory location. A central path to keep foot traffic moving is built into the facilities.

Shenaniganz has two activity centers in Texas. Co-owner Parker Coddington said they designed the 7,500-square-foot Rockwall location to maximize the space they had within their building’s footprint. For instance, they added a second story in the middle of the laser tag arena to increase their square footage without having to increase their building size.
The ruins of Angkor Wat is the theme for the laser tag arena at the Rockwall location. According to Coddington, they chose the theme because it transports players to an exotic place, fog pairs well with the jungle, and using an ancient site was prudent from a wear and tear perspective. They also consciously chose an ancient site over a futuristic theme because an ancient site will never look outdated.
Coddington said they’re about to change the theme because it’s important to give people a reason to come back and make new memories. They will likely retheme the arena after some sort of ruin or a dystopian future, again because any wear and tear will suit the look of the theme, thereby keeping the arena looking like the premium entertainment center it is.
Flow was well thought out at Shenaniganz: Upon entering the laser tag area, there is a briefing room, followed by a vesting room and, after that, the main arena. While one group is playing the game, another group can use the briefing room. The vesting room also has a separate exit so players don’t have to travel back through the briefing room to de-vest and leave the laser tag arena. Additionally, Shenaniganz sells tickets in advance for time slots, so there is no line-up to play.

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