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Indoor Playground Business

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The Entrepreneurial Side of an Indoor FEC


In a 2007 Article published by Funworld Magazine, recent family entertainment center owner/ operator Jeff Sebuck was sat down for a short interview about his overall experience in the FEC world was going thus far. When asked why he came to the decision to open up an inflatable fun center at the young age of 37 he responded with saying he wanted to run a miniature Golf Course. His wife asked him one day “If you could do any job in the world, what would it be?” and that was his answer. As a sales engineer most of his life Jeff admits having some sort of knowledge from the sales world to the family entertainment center world. Jeff believes that with indoor FECs you need a sales mentality. Of course you need to sell your business and sell the memories and fun your business represents.

Being a relatively new inflatable fun center owner Jeff expressed how Jeff Dillon from Jeff Dillon Consultants and Bobby Riggs (Partner both greatly influenced his career in a huge way. With Bobby Riggs being with him every step of the way to help him with everything and Jeff Dillon giving him the exact information he needed to stay in business. Another question Jeff went on to answering was what he felt helped distinguish his facility from all of the rest. Jeff answered with saying how his location has beautiful Oak trees that you really can’t bring in any other way than to just have land with history. The Oak Trees ore known for their 60-80 inches in diameter they present and just how Jeff built the park roughly around the many trees that make his miniature golf facility different.


Another small dream that evolved into something more was that of the Jiggins Family in Parksville British Columbia. Michael and Joan Jiggins founded Paradise Fun Park in 1987 exactly along the coast of Vancouver Island. The young couple started off with a small piece of land they had known to be quite popular with tourist’s years before that they had visited many times before themselves. They then went onto designing there first ever min golf course  “Turf N Surf” with the help of a design firm known as Castle Golf. The new course featured a windmill, Victorian Mansion, a lighthouse, and an old watermill as just a few of their obstacles. Shortly after the park went onto expanding to include a game and redemption room, and a year after opened a second course known as “Treasure Island”.

The overall expansion really started in the year of 1991 when the family made the Seas Shell Motel part of the Paradise Fun Park as a way of giving there guest a little bit more. Guests who stay at the hotel receive generous discounts and on popular attractions such as the bumper boats. The family also owns the Seaside RV Park which offers guest 24 fully serviced sites and overlooks to the shore.  In 2001 the Jiggins also went onto installing there most popular attractions known as the Bumper boats. The boats are located between the two courses and among the only attraction that can be seen from a nearby secondary highway.

Targeted Acquisitions

In the September edition of FUNWORLDs 2007 article on the new but well know Trancas Capitol, CEO Doug Honey talked about the company’s long term strategy and overall expectance for the future. As many know Doug Honey co-founded one of the largest operators of indoor FEC’s in the country with Palace Entertainment in 1988. When the company decided to focus on both indoor playground business and water parks, Honey decided to go his own route and started what is now known as Trancas. Trancas was originally started back in 2003 and has since grown to something much bigger.

When Doug was sat down for an interview with Funworld, he was asked how he came to make the decision of actually starting Trancas. Doug came to the decision when his experience at Palace starting drifting. Doug’s main focus has always been family entertainment center and it’s really what keeps him challenged. As a long term goal and strategy, Doug hopes to be one of the largest operators in the inflatable fun center world and try to expand as much as possible. He hopes to see Trancas expand with about 10-12 indoor FECs in a time frame of a year and just adding to what they already have.

Fast Track to the Top

Awarded Top inflatable fun center at the IAPPA Expo show in 2006, Larry Stottlemyer has been one of the few indoor playground business that have risen to recognition so quickly. Stottlemyer originally though up the idea of expanding his small Putt Putt business in Myersville Maryland 7 years before even opening the FEC. Taking into consideration much of the planning and theming was critical to him. Stottlemyer started with wanting to expand the course into the “Wild West” theme because it’s something he felt everybody can relate to.  With the Western theme setting the overall tone of the FEC, Stottlemyer went on to adding a westernized laser tag and paint ball dessert as well.

Stottlemyer also went onto mixing both indoor and outdoor activities.  These activities both operate as pay-as you go attractions where guests buy tickets and each attraction is measured by how many tickets it costs. The laser tag costs 170 tickets due to the year round situation playing a big part. The go karts on the other hand cost 63 tickets because they are outside. Understanding the weather, guest count, and what is and isn’t as popular should help determine a lot of things in your indoor playground business and help keep running things more smoothly.

Q&A: Brahim Sebkhi, Golf N’ Stuff

Back in November of 2007 Funworld Magazine had the opportunity to interview inflatable fun center manager of well known family entertainment center Golf N Stuff’s Brahim Sebki.  Sebki, now 58 started at Golf N Stuff back in the late 70’s and 80’s doing mostly odd jobs here and there. He now runs the arcade and strives towards excellent service for all. When fun world came to ask him what a typical day at work was for him Sebki went onto describing how his days normally went. Sebki usually comes in at about 7am and inspects the arcade for regular projects. By noon, Sebki takes care of regular maintenance issues and stays on top of keeping everything squeaky clean.

As an FEC lover from the get go, Sebki went onto explaining how much he loves his job and how fun it really is to be in this industry. As some of the more serious side of Sebkis job is knowing how to pick the right equipment for the Arcade and making sure he finds ways to stay competitive with home games.  Sebki works towards only getting games that are difficult to duplicate into home games, like Dance machines and Virtual jump rope. Sebki also went onto answering Funworlds question on how he would advise someone starting out an inflatable fun center today. Sebki responded with saying that keeping it fresh and infusing more money every year is really the key to success, not investing in the beginning and hoping it’ll last.

Blown Away

Mother Nature has always had its way of catching people by surprise and in some cases completely blind siding everyone. This proves to be true for FEC owners Lisa and Eliot McIlwain of Fun Zone Skate Center in Montgomery Alabama.  The McIlwains received news of their family entertainment center being hit by a massive tornado on Wednesday November 6th, of 2006. Being able to salvage only a couple of games and office equipment, the McIlwains suffered a total loss. Having little money and little to no coverage on the damages, Lisa and Eliot were forced to move 90 Miles south of Montgomery to a city called Dothan for a chance of returning to the indoor playground business life. The new Fun Zone Skate Center opened on June 15th, of 2007 and has since gone on in attempts of recovering from that day that changed in a heartbeat.

Since the storm hit, both Eliot and Lisa have taken the experience as something to learn from and have only decided to learn from it instead of dwelling on it much longer. One mistake the McIlwains swear to never again make is that of insurance.  More insurance on the equipment side would have alleviated much more of the money that was lost then if they would have had gotten the insurance they needed. Of course you never think such things are going to happen to you, but the McIlwains now know that there really isn’t telling when something will happen. And for that reason exactly you should always look ahead and never take anything for granted.

From Wall Street to the FEC Industry

Funworld Magazine has had many opportunities to speak too and interview many FEC owners and operators worldwide. But one interview in particular was with IAPPA’s third vice Chair Bob Rippy. As someone who never grew up In the FEC world or really ever got to experience firsthand what it was like at a young age, Bob shifted his career from Wall Street to Family Entertainment Centers in matter of a couple short years. Rippy went on to expanding his first FEC into an FEC that offered much more than just games. He added go-karts, miniature golf, laser tag, soft play, rock walls, and even built a new water park. At an early age, Rippy strived towards becoming a Dr. and never really thought he would end up with an family entertainment center instead.

Looking back at his own experience in other fields, he still appreciates his knowledge of Wall Street and how it helps him make important decisions for his inflatable fun center today. He is able to differentiate what his indoor family entertainment center  danger points are and how he should work towards bettering them. As the indoor playground business world continues to evolve Rippy was asked just how he feels FECs have done thus far. Rippy responded with saying just how he feels that people will still want to be able to get out of the house and do things they couldn’t do watching TV or looking at a Computer screen. Something that has stuck with Rippy for many years now and plays as the best piece of advice he has gotten is how he was told to live your life doing what you love and not let your life pass by only having a job. 

FEC’s and Waterparks Thrive in '07

FEC’s and Waterparks have always been a main focus in the entertainment industry and come to place very well in the IAAPA show expos. But in 2007 both Indoor FECs and Waterparks alike came in as most popular with many crowds. The must see water parks awards were presented at the week’s water social at wet N wild Orlando and came to honor water parks like  Highland Hills Water World, Splish Splash, and Chime long Waterpark; all located in Denver, New York, and China.  These parks all received the Must see awards for being able to provide unique ideas, visitor pleasing attractions, and a commitment to quality service.

In the inflatable fun center must see category, entertainment centers like Boondocks Fun Center in Draper Utah; The Amazing Pizza Machine in Omaha Nebraska; and Diversia in Cordoba Argentina were named the indoor playground business of the world. All three have been found to be one of the nominees because of how unique they have become in such a short time. The Boondocks Fun Center, open since 2005 is known for its experienced leveled go karts that everyone wants to have a go on. The Amazing Pizza Machine is most known for its combination of great food and games. As for Diversia, it is separated from the rest for its blend of adult and child entertainment, provided both for both worlds. 

Maddly Devoted

As many people know, one of the most inspiring tales of life’s struggle is well told by Family Entertainment Center ”Madd Fun” in Brooklyn New York.  Harry Haynes who is co-owner and President of Madd Fun faced allot of skepticism and doubt from family and friends as a result of his huge loss in the fashion industry a couple years ago. Eventually Haynes made believers out of everyone when a miracle occurred and Madd Fun was approved for a 1 Million dollar loan from SBA (Small Business Attraction). Rich Barlet also part owner was Haynes mentor and designer through it all and still remains a close friend.

Both Haynes and Barlet included many great things to the family entertainment center in general. With so many different ethnic groups coming through those doors, they couldn’t stress enough how they would make everybody a little bit of what they like. Haynes added all types of different music and a DJ to make sure requests were being met. Also there full kitchen provides meals of all ethnic groups for everyone to enjoy a little bit of their home town soul food,  Caribbean dishes and Latin spice they may like to eat. Haynes is known for his many great deeds in his community but especially recognized for the learning experience he has been able to provide with his learning rooms and overall computer lab contributing to better students.

Risks and Rewards

As a person who generally combines calculated and sometimes immediate action, Larry Stottlemyer, Owner of Adventure Park USA has had a path of risks that contributed to many rewards along the way. Inside this great inflatable fun center is what the Stottlemyer’s like to call their family run family entertainment center. With games such as the “Dessert Oasis Mini Golf”, “Hang’em high Rope Course” and there “painted Dessert Paintball”, Larry has gone with a westernized theme that everybody can relate to. As Stottlemyer has gone on, decisions such as adding a rollercoaster and Waterpark to his expansion have all been risks but done properly for great rewards.

Stottlemyer advises for people to learn about the business, and have somewhat of a mentor in people or friends you may have in the industry. Pick information out of them in order to do as much right as you can by your family entertainment center . Don’t get sucked in by advertisements and bribes, instead look at investing on only products you know will be a great hit. Of course there will be times where immediate action may be necessary but always think of researching articles and methods of the products before investing. Build you business up slowly to keep both customers and growing with it.

The Lifter

With more than 50 years of experience in the entertainment Industry, Malcolm Steinberg was invited to do a quick interview with Funworld Magazine in June of 2009. Steinberg started off working with his father selling furniture as a teenager, and soon after found his niche when visiting his uncle in 1958. His Family Entertainment Center known as Time Zone, soon spread across Australia, and then in the 1980s to Southeast Asia. Steinberg also came to developing and licensing games throughout the world for many years as a way of diversifying his company.

When sat down with Funworld Magazine, Steinberg was asked what he found to be the key to his Success. As a response Steinberg answered with saying his businesses originality is what has leaded them thus far over the past 50 years. Funworld Magazine also came to ask the question of what he felt was the biggest challenge the industry faces today. As a response, he answered with saying how he knows with these tough economic times; people will continue to seek out lower prices, therefore forcing the business to lower them. But with people still wanting to leave there own home for that out of home experience, times will better for the inflatable fun center world. 

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