Residents of Lancaster, Pa., are going bananas over Go ‘N Bananas Family Fun Park. The jungle-themed, 22,000 square-foot indoor facility introduces guests to a large purple ape named Nano. He and his family of eight live on the isolated island of Ke-Laah, far removed from the outside world. Nano is a dreamer, much like Mark Legenstein, Managing Partner of Go ‘N Bananas and a former flooring business division director.
Architect Doug Wilkerson and his team at Dynamic Designs helped create the Nano storyline and Doug describes it as the “heartbeat” of the project; “Nano would spend hours dreaming of what it would be like to explore the world beyond the island. He dreams of adventure and daring expeditions, and of meeting new creatures and wonders.”
THE JOURNEY BEGINS
One day in April 2006, Mark and his family left their home and traveled out into the world for an adventure of their own. The journey took them to a small children’s entertainment center with inflatables in Philadelphia, the site of a birthday party for Mark’s nephew. Mark and his family had such a blast that he started dreaming about opening a children’s party center of his own.
Mark’s original concept was to open a small children’s center that would house several inflatables with a minimal investment. As he learned more about the industry, his dream grew bigger and bigger. “Jerry Merola of Amusement Entertainment Management (AEM) helped enormously,” explains Mark. “My original vision was geared toward kids only. As our lead consultant and project coordinator-developer, Jerry helped create a new vision that was for a more family oriented facility, everyone from ages two to adults, something for everyone to enjoy.”
AEM was hired in December 2012. Dynamic Designs was contracted next to assist with everything from the facility layout (with square footages according to AEM’s feasibility study) to the Go ‘N Bananas logo. Mark credits both Dynamic Designs and AEM as two of the most crucial companies that helped him along the way.
“We got to where we are today because of them,” says Mark. “We wouldn’t be the facility we are today if they were not a part of the process.” One of the surprise compliments Mark is receiving is about the theming. “People just love Go ‘N Bananas. They think we are a well-established franchise.”
There were a couple of hurdles along the way. The largest obstacle was getting the inside of the facility started. “It just took a while to get things moving,” says Mark. “But once it started, it ran very smoothly.” When asked if he would do any one thing differently, Mark said he would have added a second partial floor for much needed additional storage/office space.
“Sometimes it feels that with high ceilings there is some wasted space, logistics wise, but overall, I feel very comfortable that everything is pretty close to perfect,” says Mark.
Picture a hidden gem tucked away in the jungle of Costa Rica. Guests are immediately brought into a special new world when they enter Go ‘N Bananas and are greeted by the facility’s largest attraction, a three-story Ballocity unit by Prime Play.
As guests continue their journey, they are welcomed into Ke-Laah Island, which contains the Game Zone and Laser Frenzy. Next is Arctic Adventures with a scaling ropes course, mini bowling, a second Game Zone (there are 33 redemption games, 10 merchandisers, seven videos, and three novelty games, including an Apple Photo Booth, KC Cobra kiddie game, and an air hockey table), and Urban Quest, a two-story laser tag, round out the map.
When guests need a snack break, they head over to the Congo Cafe, which seats 85 and offers a wide range of foods from pizza and salads to a kid’s menu, wings, hot sandwiches, and much more. This is also the perfect time to let toddlers have some fun in the Discovery Forest, located adjacent to the Congo Cafe.
A stop in Ape Overhead, featuring Spin Zone bumper cars, is a must before guests leave. But they shouldn’t forget to redeem their E-tickets at the redemption prize center, which was transformed from empty showcases and bare shelves to a mini-retail center by Rhode Island Novelty and Henry Stoop of Alpha-Omega Sales. Prizes range from Tootsie Rolls to Quad Copters. Go ‘N Bananas also has high-end prizes (think BIG) that the young ones go ape over.
“Overwhelmingly great,” says Mark when asked about community reactions. “We have done very little advertising since opening in December 2015 and yet we have off-the-wall revenue numbers, weekends we are slammed. Only open a few months, we already have repeat customers. Moms with very young children during the week and frequent family customers of all ages on the weekend.”
There is, however, one customer complaint Mark did not foresee: “There are just too many guests at the facility on Saturdays and Sundays; it is affecting the birthday parties. It is hard to efficiently move the party guests through each of the attractions with the excessive walk-in foot traffic.”
Mark’s not complaining. Having too many guests in the facility is a wonderful achievement and he is confident that he and his team will figure out ways to improve this situation over time.
FEC BUSINESS ON FUN PARK TIME
Visitation time in an average family entertainment center (FEC) is 2 to 2.5 hours with an average per capita spending per visit of $15. A properly designed indoor/outdoor fun park (also called pocket park) has a longer length of stay time that can vary from 3 to 5 hours, depending on size and number of attractions. The financial model says that a 5-hour stay would usually produce an average per capita spending of $30.
Go ‘N Bananas was designed to be a fun park but it is unique because it is 100% indoors. To heavily promote a maximum 5-hour stay, Go ‘N Bananas offers four different 5-hour discount passes, ranging from the lowest for toddlers at $9.99 to Nano’s Deluxe Pass at $29.99. As it turns out, Nano’s Deluxe Pass is the most popular pass and includes all attractions plus a $5 game card. This confirms that a $30 per capita is attainable when additional food and beverage spending is included.
The birthday party packages also include a sampling of each of the themed Nano’s World zones, which includes all attractions for ages 5 and up, or a trip to Tiny Tot Forest, giving the little ones 2 hours of play in Toddler Zone and Ballocity. If guests are looking for group packages, Go ‘N Bananas offers everything from team building to youth lock-ins, making them the go-to entertainment facility for all the Lancaster community needs.
Guests can book all parties on site or online, powered by Party Center Software. If they’re not looking for a 5-hour package and just want some quick fun, each of Go ‘N Bananas’ attractions can be purchased individually. Game Zone and Congo Cafe are open during all operational hours.
Go ‘N Bananas is a family run business. Mark is quick to make sure everyone knows this. It is as much his business as it is his two brothers’ and their father’s. “Although it is my baby, my three partners help me run it when I am not there and we have a lot of family members on our 60 plus staff,” says Mark.
“Our instincts and those of our AEM Team tells us that we will all be seeing more ‘indoor’ family fun parks in the near future, as this new financial model really does work. Go ‘N Bananas has raised the bar. Don’t forget, Nano and his family make Go ‘N Bananas even more “a-peel-ing.” For more information, visit (www.gobananas.com).”
Frank Seninsky and Joseph Camarota III
Reprinted from Play Meter Magazine – April 2016
Frank Seninsky is the President of the Alpha-Omega Group of companies, which includes Amusement Entertainment Management, Alpha-Omega Amusements & Sales, and Alpha-BET Entertainment.
He is Co-Regent for Foundations Entertainment University and a past President of both the Amusement and Music Operators Association (AMOA) and the International Association for the Leisure Entertainment Industry (IALEI).
E-mail ([email protected]).
Joseph Camarota III began his coin-op career at Alpha-Omega Amusements & Sales in 1994 working part-time servicing their local route locations and reconditioning and repairing games. In 1997, he decided to commit all his time and energy to Alpha-Omega. He worked his way through each department and has managed Merchandise, Dispatch, and Parts and Service. In 2009, he became Director of Operations and Sales.
E-mail ([email protected]).