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How Big Are Laser Tag Arenas?

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As you are walking through a busy mall, you can’t help but notice the bustle and jubilation emerging from a laser tag facility. It even looks like there is a crowd of people in line and waiting for their turn to get in. This gets you thinking that there may be a real opportunity in opening a facility of your own, but you do not even know where to begin.

How big are laser tag arenas? Laser tag arenas are usually a minimum of 4,500 square feet but can extend to as much as 7,000 square feet if you are in an area of high demand. As most laser tag facilities make their major revenue by hosting group parties, anything under 4,500 square feet will be insufficient for hosting more than one party at a time.

Of course, while 4,500 to 7,000 square feet offers a general guideline for the size of your laser tag arena, there are myriad other factors that you will want to consider before opening up a facility of your own. The mission is to bring a fun, competitive challenge to customers, but you will not be able to keep the doors open without turning a profit.

How Big Are Laser Tag Arenas: The Guidelines

When opening a laser tag facility, you will want to have an arena that you can consistently keep full while meeting all fire and safety regulations.

Square Footage Estimates

The most significant factor that comes into play when deciding the size of your laser tag facility is how much square footage is required to safely and comfortably host an individual player.

When looking into this, you need to consider the various factors that require space when setting up a laser tag arena. The following is a breakdown of each of these factors, as well as the amount of square footage that will be required, on average, per person, to safely and comfortably carry out all laser tag functions:

  • Arena floor - this is the actual area on which players will be running around and playing the game and will constitute the majority of your laser tag arena’s square footage. There will also be the most variability in this estimate, as the square footage needs for playing will change based on the size of your players

You will need about 125 to 150 square feet of arena floor space per player to ensure a safe and comfortable playing space.

  • Vesting - this is a preparatory need in getting the game set up, in which staff members will help customers find vests that fit comfortably and assist them in getting them properly put on

You will need about 13 to 15 square feet of facility, per player, in order to get players properly vested for laser tag competition.

  • Briefing - this is another important preparatory step in the laser tag experience. After players are fitted in their vests, staff members will walk them through safety precautions, how to operate their guns and where to aim at the vest and give details about the playing space. They will also explain time limits and how to win games

You will need about 8 to 10 square feet of facility, per player, in order to adequately brief players before starting the game.

  • Control - this is the area where the staff will be located to make sure the game is flowing smoothly and safely. It will also be the area where players come if they are having any issues with equipment or experience any problems on the game floor

            You will need to budget about two square feet per player for control space.

When adding this all up, you can expect to budget about 148 to 177 square feet of facility space, per player. When taking the average of these two extremes, you can see that it requires about 162 square feet, per player, in order to safely and comfortably open a laser tag arena.

What About Capacity?

Now that you have the estimate on how many square feet of facility space is required to run a laser tag arena, you must answer another important question: How many players will there be in the arena at the same time?

While this is a very hard figure to pin down, it is best to consider that the vast majority of laser tag reservations will come from kids’ birthday parties. Then, you want to consider that the average size of a birthday party is 12 to 14 people.

If you use this figure, it would require between 1,944 and 2,268 square feet of facility space to host a birthday party (162 square feet per player x 12 players per party, 162 square feet per player x 14 players per party).

Therefore, if you had a small laser tag facility, such as one covering 3,000 square feet, you would not be able to host more than one birthday party at a time, as any party of average size would have to be broken up or wait until the facility cleared in order to start their game.

In short, a good estimate is 12 to 15 people per 2,000 square feet of space.

As people are not keen on having their parties broken up or having to wait in line, many within the industry estimate that laser tag facilities with the capacity to host only one party at a time will generate only 20 to 30 percent of the revenue of those that can host multiple parties at a time.

Therefore, in order to be able to accommodate two birthday parties at a time, laser tag arenas should be at least 4,500 square feet (162 square feet per player x 14 players per birthday party x 2 parties).

Increasing Square Footage to Maximize Revenue

By adding the square footage to host two birthday parties simultaneously, laser tag arenas can ensure that they are maximizing revenue by reducing the chances that customers will have to wait. In addition, even if a third birthday party tries to book at the same time, their wait time will be dramatically reduced due to the tenets of the waiting line theory.

If you know that you are in an area of particularly high demand, you may want to consider opening an arena of 7,000 square feet. This will give you the ability to host three birthday parties simultaneously.

However, you will want to carefully consider opening a 7,000 square foot arena, as the increased size leads to higher overhead costs, and it can sometimes be hard to consistently fill such a large arena, making it difficult to cover overhead expenses.

Multilevel Facilities

Whenever possible, it is a great idea to open a laser tag facility that contains multiple levels.

This gives the illusion that the arena is bigger than it actually is without having to add additional square footage of floor space.

Furthermore, an extra level offers the following layers of benefits:

  • Attractive to kids - as kids’ birthday parties are one of the biggest demographics laser tag arenas appeal to, it is essential that your facility is as attractive to kids as possible. Kids naturally like to climb on things and play peek-a-boo, and having a tiered facility emulates the playground experience for children
  • Battle tactics - laser tag is an activity that appeals to those who like to play combat games. One of the fundamental principles of wartime tactics is that the side that controls the high ground has a major advantage. By having multiple levels in your facility, you can create some fun, intense exchanges in which opposing teams battle for the high ground
  • Good workout - some people enjoy playing laser tag because it is a way to get out of the house and be physically active without the toil of working out or going to the gym. One of the best forms of cardiovascular exercise is going up, and down the stairs, so players can get a really fun workout while they chase each other through the arena’s levels
  • 360-degree experience - when playing on one level, laser tag competitors have a limited view of the combat floor. This can cause them to have to pin themselves in a corner to survey the field, which is not an ideal tactic. A second-level structure allows players to see all around them and get a better feel for the combat zone

If you are serious about adding a second level to your laser tag arena, this can be easily accomplished by adding a section called the Area of Sport Activity (ASA).

Areas of Sport Activity (ASA)

Portable ASAs can be purchased at minimal cost and installed in your arena, or you may hire a professional to build you an ASA if you plan on your arena being open in the same location for a significant period of time.  

Either way, by adding an ASA to your laser tag arena, you will be increasing the square footage of your facility by at least 1,000 square feet without having to rent any extra floor space.

FEC Role

More than likely, your laser tag arena will be a part of a larger family entertainment center (FEC). In addition to laser tag, an FEC may include things such as bowling alleys, trampoline zones, or arcades.

Therefore, when deciding on the size of your laser tag arena, you will need to understand its role in the FEC.

If your laser tag arena is a primary attraction in the FEC, then you will absolutely need it to be at least 4,500 square feet. A primary attraction at an FEC means that people are coming to the location with the main objective of playing laser tag. They may play some air hockey or jump on the trampolines after the laser tag game is over, but if not for the laser tag arena, they probably would not be coming out.

Primary attraction laser tag arenas are likely to induce a high number of birthday party reservations. As such, you would be losing out on significant revenue if you opened a smaller arena.

If your laser tag arena is a secondary or tertiary attraction at the FEC, you may be able to get away with using a smaller facility.

A secondary or tertiary attraction is one in which people come to the FEC for a different reason but end up at your laser tag arena after completing their previous business. An FEC that markets its bowling alley as a primary attraction will see some bowlers stick around and play laser tag after they are finished bowling.

These laser tag facilities are less likely to draw the attention of birthday parties and more likely to have random customers poke their heads in. As such, opening a 3,000 square foot facility that can host only 20 players at a time may work best because you can have smaller games with players that are more flexible in whom they are willing to play with.

Laser Tag Facility Size: Other Considerations

While the aforementioned guidelines give a solid look at how big your laser tag arena should be, there are some other considerations that you will want to look at when deciding on a facility.

Rent

The cost of rent is an important consideration when trying to decide on the size of your laser tag arena.

It is obvious that smaller facilities will cost less to rent than larger facilities. However, this is just one factor that will drive the cost of the rent. As with all matters related to real estate, the most important driver of price can be summed up in one word: Location!

Simply put, arenas in premium locations will be more expensive to rent. What are some factors that can cause you to pay premium rent prices in certain locations? Let’s take a look:

  • Convenience - is your arena located proximate to other attractions that will get people out of their house, such as shopping or restaurants, where they can kill two birds with one stone? Is it a simple drive and/or walk from your arena to major areas of domestic residence?
  • Neighborhood - is the general atmosphere of the area where your laser tag arena is located friendly and welcoming or is it someplace that people may consider “sketchy,” especially when considering that kids will likely be involved
  • Condition - is the facility “good to go,” or will you need to make major renovations to the structure and/or parking lots

All of these factors will be considered with the arena-size in order to determine the price of your rent. If your arena is in a premium location, you will have to pay more for a smaller space, but the amount of foot traffic may not make you reliant on attracting parties. You may also get higher secondary sales on items like vending machines and t-shirts.

If you are in a lesser location, you can affordably get an arena with a lot of square footage, but you may have difficulty filling it consistently. This can have insidious effects because people may not want to come if your arena feels like a big, empty dome, and you will have to pay higher electric bills to compensate for the larger space.

All in all, the goal of your facility should be to have the maximum number of players on the arena floor during all hours of operations. It is a general rule in business that it is better to turn away and/or waitlist a very small number of customers while operating at maximum capacity than it is to be paying for something too large that you cannot fill.

This once again illustrates the importance of adding an ASA to a smaller facility to increase floor capacity, as you will be paying rent for an area of less square footage while safely increasing the number of players who can play, making it less essential that you always operate your arena at maximum capacity.

Stand-Alone vs. FEC Arenas

As mentioned earlier, the vast majority of laser tag arenas will be located in an FEC. This can give you some flexibility when choosing an arena size, depending on whether it is a primary or secondary attraction.

However, there are some laser tag arenas that are stand-alone facilities. These arenas are most likely located in sub-premium locations but are paying comparatively low rent for their buildings.

If your laser tag arena is going to be a stand-alone facility, it must be at least 4,500 square feet so you can host multiple parties simultaneously. You will not be able to get enough random traffic to make a smaller facility worthwhile.

While rent is often considerably cheaper for stand-alone arenas, marketing costs will be markedly higher, as you will have to work hard to spread the word about your arena’s existence and offer special discounts and/or promotions to get parties interested in coming to you for the sole purpose of laser tag.

Dual Use Arenas

As kids’ birthday parties make up a preponderance of laser tag clientele, the prime hours of operation are Friday nights, Saturdays, and Sundays, as well as the summer months when school is not in session.

As such, if you have a portable ASA, it may be worth your time to consider finding another business that can use your facility during non-prime hours. For example, if located in an FEC, you may be able to allow an RC car exhibition to set up during the week, providing you some added cash by subletting your space.

Keep in mind, though, that you will incur higher labor costs due to needing more help to transition back and forth between laser tag and other uses.

Thank you to heipei and Flickr for the image.

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