A successful laser tag attraction starts with your centre design, and a consideration for your market opportunities, along with a strategic focus on long term playability and repeat appeal.
Combining strategic arena design with your laser tag equipment and arena technology (bases, targets, mines, and designs), builds an attraction synergy that maximizes your customer’s experiences, and helps to diversify and expand your market opportunities.
With a completed build-out and a synergy between your laser tag arena and your laser tag equipment, you are able to offer a wide variety of standard and unique laser tag and arena games that appeal to a broad range of players and demographics.
It doesn’t stop there though. To make a successful centre, the whole building must be aligned, themed and well laid out to best optimize the facility. Here are some thing’s we’ve learnt about the way to layout your centre!
Upon arriving at your facility, the lobby is the first thing your customers will see and needs to give them a good impression. Customers will be here to purchase games, redeem tickets, and buy refreshments. The lobby is the central hub for the rest of your facility.
Your lobby will include:
– Front Counter
– Redemption Counter
– Entrances to your various attractions
– In-store marketing items
– One or more laser tag scoreboards
– Closed-circuit TV for laser tag arena viewing
– Tables and waiting areas for those about to play
Your goal should be to create a lobby environment where those waiting to play your attractions are able to spend time, have fun, and learn more about your facility and what it has to offer.
* Prices and values quoted below are in US dollars (USD).
A well laid-out arcade and redemption centre can increase your potential income significantly. Also having the latest, hottest, most profitable arcade/redemption mix is equally important.
Operators can either lease their arcade games from a third-party vendor or own them outright.
With leasing you can keep your games cycling through as newer games are released while broken games are repaired by the third-party company. Leasing of course also greatly reduces the initial investment on the arcade area. Profits from leasing are negotiated and split with the leasing company.
On the other hand, owning your machines outright means your profits will be higher, but, you’ll also have to do repairs and updates yourself whilst keeping the range of games current. Operators who have experience fixing arcade machines generally choose this option or move to this option over time.
Industry experts suggest you allocate roughly 4 square meters (about 45 square feet) per video game for your arcade. If you plan to purchase your games, the average price per video game or redemption machine would be around $9,000 per machine. The price will vary, with some titles costing up to $100,000.
The industry average revenue per non-redemption machine is around $200 per machine. Some machines will make considerably more, while others could generate less. For initial planning purposes however, the $200 per machine amount is a safe number. For redemption machines, assume closer to $350 per machine. However, there will be additional expenses for redemption machines in terms of tickets and prizes redeemed.
Redemption games usually make more money in your facility, as the reward options at your redemption counter feed the desire for your guests to play. A well-stocked redemption counter can create real excitement for your customers and their children, who will want to take those prizes home.
A further consideration is the payment method for your arcade games. There are 3 main systems; coins, tokens, or CIP/card based. There are pros and cons for each option.
Most machines come fitted with coin mechs by default. That means no modifications are required to take token or CIP/card readers. It also means people won’t need to change money into tokens/credits to use the machines.
With tokens and CIP/card readers, some modifications are generally required to change weighting on the coin mechs for tokens, or to replace the coin mechs entirely for CIP/card readers, at a cost of somewhere between $150 to $800 per reader. With tokens, an initial investment in purchasing tokens is also required. The same applies for CIP/card readers, with cards being needed from the supplier.
With both token and CIP/card operations, staff time is increased slightly for the arcade as staff will need to swap money for the respective payment method. However, these do allow for arcade package deals and bulk spending, among other benefits. Token and CIP/card options greatly enhance redemption returns on the arcade. There are also options to consider between printed tickets and “e-tickets”. (We will cover this in more detail in a future blogpost!)
Before vesting up to play in your laser tag arena, your guests will need to be briefed on how to play the game. Your briefing room should make it easy for your game commander to explain the arena rules and how to use the laser tag equipment.
Some operators use a video to brief players on the laser tag system, while others prefer a personal presenter for each game. Bringing equipment in to the briefing room as props to demonstrate its use to players, is also common and can be very interactive, especially with birthday children. Some briefing rooms have places or areas for players to sit, while others have players remain standing during the brief.
These are all choices as briefings can be done in any of the ways listed above. Regardless of the briefing method chosen, you’ll need only about 0.75 square meters (about 8 or 9 square feet) per laser tag pack to comfortably fit your players.
The plan and layout of your briefing room, vesting room, arena, and lobby are crucial for customer direction and flow. While a group of customers are being briefed, another group who just completed a game should be hanging their vests in the vesting room and exiting to the lobby through a separate exit in the room. When the first group’s briefing is completed, they should be able to move directly into the vesting room without encountering the previous game’s players. Facilities that can’t accommodate this kind of flow can suffer lower revenue and fewer games per hour.
Theming in your briefing room is also an important aspect as it helps set the mood for your guest’s experience.
Located between your arena and briefing room, your vesting room is where your players go to put on the laser tag equipment and get ready to enter the world you’ve created for them.
Designing a vesting room is a little tougher than the briefing room because you need the right amount of space for protruding vest racks whilst also having enough room for everyone to put their vests on ready to enter the arena at the beginning of the game and then removing their vests at the end of the game to exit back to the lobby.
There are many ways to handle your vest racks and charging system, but most systems are pretty flexible. 30cm (about 12 inches) to 45cm (about 18 inches) between vest racks, measured from the center of each rack, is required for proper spacing. The image below, from a real centre, shows a vesting room which settled on 40cm (about 16 inches) between each rack, and therefore accommodated 32 vests comfortably.
The entry door to the arena and the exit door out to the lobby should be on opposite walls and clearly marked to avoid confusion.
The vesting room needs to have thick, padded carpet installed. People are going to drop your equipment day in, day out, so give it something soft to fall on. The carpet should be low cost, industrial (hard-wearing) and anti-static treated to protect the electronic equipment. It should also be a welcoming colour that enhances the room, isn’t hard to look at, and doesn’t clash with the lit up vest racks and vests.
The lighting in the vesting room should create an air of excitement for your players. Some centres prefer bright, well-lit vesting rooms, while others opt for dimmed lighting and tie the room together with ultra-violet art, ultra-violet paint, and black lights. Flashing lights and strobes should probably be avoided, or used only in moderation, as the laser tag equipment provides that already. Getting the lighting right will mean the carpet, the vest racks, and the entire room can truly come alive; really hyping your players before their game!
Zone vest racks have been the industry standard for years. With DMX or remotely-controlled lighting, Zone’s vest racks are designed to WOW players as they enter the vesting room. They’re simple to install and, with the vests hanging from them, really make the room come alive!
This is where the ultimate vision for your facility gains traction or falls on it’s face! Having a well-designed, playable arena is absolutely crucial to the success of your laser tag business.
When designing your laser tag arena, there are plenty of factors you’ll need to think about, each listed in the various segments of this section. Some items are specific only to the arena, whilst other items are not necessarily specific, but do need to be considered when thinking about the arena design.
One of those considerations is the space required for the arena. A good rule of thumb is to allow for 10 to 15 square meters (about 107 to 161 square feet) per player. This will provide a comfortable playing space for your customers. Going too small will mean your guests won’t have much fun, and you’ll create a claustrophobic feel when the arena is packed with too many players. It is always better to design a slightly larger arena and add more packs to your attraction than to build too small with no room for growth.
The shape of your arena can vary depending on your building and layout. Some facilities design a symmetric arena, split and mirrored down the middle. This can be great for team or competition games with players requiring strategy and planning to succeed. Other facilities prefer less conventional designs, allowing for more random, sporadic game play where players need craftiness and cunning to prevail. Arena designs should always incorporate unique elements and a mix of obstacles to hide behind.
Some operators struggle with the thought of making their laser tag attraction single-level or multi-level. There are good reasons to choose to go multi-level. Most laser tag attractions today are multi-level. Multi-level arenas outlast and outperform single-level arenas nearly two to one. However, double level arenas do need a minimum of 5 meters (about 16 feet) high ceilings. So it may not always be possible depending on your building. But don’t despair. There are still work-arounds to add the appearance of height, even when your building doesn’t allow. You an create the illusion of elevation, for example, by adding “half-levels”. These are elevated areas that aren’t designed to have players underneath, and don’t raise to a full second floor. This still creates an exciting experience and means the arena doesn’t feel flat and one-dimensional.
If you are considering doing a second level, then your play structure should be around 30% of your footprint.
Over the past few years, compliance has been an issue that many operators have had to deal with. Ramp slopes and player accessibility are two common areas that need to be addressed. There are two good ways to deal with these issues. One is to make sure your arena is labeled a “play structure” rather than a “laser tag arena”. The other is to make things like bases and targets accessible from the first floor of your arena.
If you are purchasing from Zone Laser Tag and encounter these kinds of issues, feel free to contact us for possible solutions.
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You need a space set aside, out of the public eye, where you can perform equipment maintenance. You also need a place to store tools, peripherals, spare parts, and the required assortment of associated fasteners.
Ideally, your tech room should be attached to your vesting room, close to the arena entrance. This provides for the situation where a player in a game requires a quick maintenance fix, exits the arena to receive help, and subsequently doesn’t lose too much precious game time. Having your tech room attached to the vesting room and close to the arena also means players seeking help won’t need to travel through the lobby in view of other guests. The tech room is similarly a great place to put the laser tag server and network setup as well.
Depending on the size of the facility you should aim to construct the largest tech room that space will allow. So, what do you place in a tech room that requires this amount of space?
First, you need at least a roomy bench to work on vests, boards, and special projects. A bench that is 1 meter (about 3.2 feet) by 2.4 meters (about 8 feet) suits this role nicely. The bench should sit on a couple of cabinets and drawers to store the most commonly used tools. Storage space above the bench is also very important, as everything you need should be within reach.
Second, storage shelves for larger parts and maybe even supplemental storage for other aspects of your facility, are a must. Storage space in any site is at a premium, so don’t waste any available space here.
Lastly, a backup battery charging area complete with a few basic vest racks is also a very good idea. These should be placed near the door so that if a player exits a game with a battery or pack failure, vests can be swapped out quickly so they don’t lose time and you don’t lose money. A backup charging area also serves as a backup unit should a section of your main charging system fail.
The tech room example shown above, from a real centre, is only 4.5 meters (about 15 feet) by 3 meters (about 10 feet), but was able to cram a lot in to that space. If you have the space for a room of larger size, then by all means use more space if you can. The example room above is actually just a little larger than what is often found in many existing facilities. That’s because most tech rooms are an after-thought and end up being placed wherever remaining space happens to be available. It is best to plan ahead and avoid that scenario.
It is important to also note that this tech room space should be used only for repairs and storage related to your laser tag arena and vests. It should not be used to store unrelated goods such as redemption arcade game prizes, perishables, food, or party supplies. Those items will just get in the way, hindering repairs and maintenance. Such items should instead be stored in other appropriate storage areas throughout your facility.
These are the rooms where groups and parties will spend a good deal of time at your facility, so you have to continue the general feel and theme of your facility in to these areas.
Some operators have the option to do either single party rooms or larger party areas where multiple parties can take place at the same time. In our experience, party parents and group leaders will choose party rooms over larger party areas almost every time.
Party rooms are generally around 4 meters by 5.5 meters (about 13 feet by 18 feet) or so and use a 1.2 meter to 1.8 meter (about 4 feet to 6 feet) table, or pair of tables, to fit nicely in that size. This provides seating for around 10 to 14 guests and some room for a small counter or bench space with drawers and basic storage for the party host. Small fridges and microwave ovens are often essential accessories.
Multiple single party rooms can also be placed next to each other, closed off by double doors or sliding concertina walls, which can subsequently be opened to create larger party areas for corporate or larger group functions. An increasing number of facilities are now including options like projectors and screens for presentations, along with network connectivity and buffet style food preparation to cater for larger, more professional, events.
In today’s culture of “try before you buy”, an observation deck allows you to showcase your laser tag attraction to those who aren’t sure if they or their children want to play in your facility. Letting parents watch your attraction to see their child’s enjoyment and excitement is a fantastic way to put parent’s minds at ease and create “word of mouth” advertising to win more parties at your facility.
Observation decks often don’t take up much space. In a multi-level arena, they should ideally be situated on the second level to give viewers a great vantage point for watching the action taking place. These areas are generally enclosed rooms with dimmed lighting, viewing windows, and a single access door. Usually, you don’t want observers to interact with players in the laser tag arena.
A less recommended alternative is light reflective tinted, glass that can be incorporated into the lobby wall adjoining the arena. However, with this design, the observation glass can let light in from the lobby which can disturb the effects and hinder the experience. Many visuals in the arena, such as the black light painted walls and obstacles don’t glow well when exposed to this kind of natural light. But, if carefully planned, with attention given to the way external light may interact with the laser arena inside, these kinds of observation areas can be incorporated well and can be an additional, effective way to attract potential customers to your laser tag attraction.
Another great option is to have cameras in your arena with a display monitor in your lobby or party rooms (or both) so that parents and waiting players can view the action happening in the arena. Many facilities with second level observation decks have incorporated this option to cater for people who may be unable to visit the upstairs observation deck. Camera boards are also a great addition to the scoreboard display area, as they allow guests to watch both the scores and the action in real time!
To feed or not to feed, that is the question. Many Family Entertainment Centres include a full kitchen to maximize food profits, instead of relying purely on snack sales or take-away orders from nearby restaurants.
Having the ability to serve your own pizzas, hamburgers, chips, and birthday party food, along with the ability to store and refrigerate goods such as ice-cream and cakes is a great advantage. It will require a larger set up expense and will need some permits, not to mention the additional handling and cleaning requirements. But, it will certainly help to increase your overall profits significantly.
You’ll want to include space for:
- Ovens / microwaves
- Refrigerators and freezers
- Sinks and dish washers
- Coffee machine
- Slushy / Popcorn or other small service items
- Storage containers and shelves
Items like the coffee, slushy and popcorn can be Incorporated into the front counter which generally increases the sales of those, as customers can see drinks / popcorn being made.
Self-branding the food and the cafe area to fit in with your centre and its theming is key to making it work! Be clever with the names of your food, and add a local twist to the food style.
You should speak with local fire marshals and contractors to learn about any local and federal compliance regulations you’ll need to abide by to include a kitchen in your facility.
Your office space is where your management team will be looking after facility matters, handling phone calls, counting money, recording security camera footage, storing important or expensive items, and tracking daily statistics. Your office space is the central hub around which your business operates.
It is important to have a space for your management team to be able to work away from the facility’s action, as many of your manager’s functions and appointments will require their full attention. Depending on available space and requirements, you can have a single, large, open-plan office, or smaller individual offices, or both. Smaller individual offices usually won’t take up much room at all and merely need to accommodate a desk, a computer, and perhaps a few filing cabinets and shelves.
Theming the offices to match your centre’s theming is a good step to remind your managers why they do what they do, and helps to keep them in a fun mood!
Consideration should also be given to office space that will be used as an employee break room. This is a place where employees can store personal items, have meals, and take short breaks. This room might have a water cooler, some lockers, and maybe a small benchtop with drawers, small fridge, and a mini sink to aid with personal food preparation.
Not having a break room means that employees will spend break times hanging around the lobby, tech room, or other places where you don’t want them to eat. This can create problems where staff and customers interact. It is not fun trying to have your break with customers still approaching you to ask questions or seek help. Having your employees use your office, instead of having a separate break room, can similarly create unwanted situations such as the possibility of theft, or overhearing private management conversations and meetings.
Besides the main sections of your facility, there are other areas which must be included that every facility always needs to consider.
Restrooms – Your local fire marshal can tell you how many restrooms and stalls you will need based on your parking and the occupancy of the facility. If you subsequently need to relocate a restroom from another part of the building, it can be an expensive exercise. So plan ahead and avoid the need to do that.
Storage – Never underestimate how much storage you will need for your facility. Seriously, it’s important! You will need separate storage areas for cleaning chemicals, restaurant supplies, tools, extra lights and maintenance equipment, computer and other IT equipment, party supplies, employee supplies, seasonal items, redemption prizes, and more based on your other attractions. Many facilities forget to include or end up lacking these in their initial designs. Many also forget to consider the possibility of expansion in the future. Think about storage, plan well, and then think about it again.
Waiting Areas – Don’t forget to have milling spaces for guests, so they don’t feel like they are encroaching on other attractions or customers as they wait. You want guests to feel comfortable and relaxed during their visits.
Bins / Recycling – Having plenty of bins well spaced around your facility will help to keep it clean. Having these themed to the centre is a plus as well, to make them fit in better.
Since the guest experience is central to the long-term success of your business, you must minimize the friction points and bottle-necks of every interaction within your facility. An example of customer friction is the frustration of finding parking when a guest is visiting your facility. Be sure to select a location with parking that’s relative to the size of your facility and will easily accommodate for the number of guests per hour on your busiest day.
Your local authority or city council can give you guidance on the minimum number of parking spaces needed for your business. Many countries link the amount of parking spaces available to the occupancy of the building, so make sure to plan accordingly.