Florida-based GameTime family entertainment center set to expand into Southwest Florida
SAN CARLOS PARK, Fla. – GameTime, a Florida-based family entertainment center, is preparing to enter the Southwest Florida market with a new restaurant, bar and arcade expected to open late this summer or early fall at Gulf Coast Town Center in south Lee County.
The 22,000-square-foot facility will open in the space formerly occupied by a Borders bookstore, and for a short while by a glow-in-the-dark mini golf course.
GameTime will feature a game room with more than 100 arcade and redemption games, a prize redemption counter, a 200-seat restaurant, a 30-seat sports bar and two banquet rooms for parties and events, according to the company. It will be more adult-oriented than a Chuck E. Cheese’s, more family-oriented than Dave & Buster’s, and will never shut down and turn into a nightclub, said Mike Abecassis, the company’s owner and CEO.
“We’re not the place to go to do shots with your friends,” he said. “But we are the place to go on a football Sunday.”
The space, across from House of Brewz and the mall’s amphitheater, has been mostly empty since 2011, when Borders went out of business. For more than three years, Abecassis said, his company has been working on the project, including getting the deal approved with Gulf Coast Town Center’s ownership, CBL & Associates Properties, as well as with major mall tenants that have the ability to restrict certain types of businesses, including arcades.
“You start getting into 22,000-square-foot deals, they’re complicated and can take a little bit longer than others,” said Jeff Purisch, the mall’s general manager.
Abecassis, a longtime arcade game distributor, said they decided on the Gulf Coast Town Center location after pouring over data from several Southwest Florida shopping malls. They looked at everything from individual retail store performances to movie theater data; what movies play well and who sees them.
While it may not have the same retail core as other local malls, in terms of dining and entertainment, Gulf Coast Town Center was the place to be, he said.
“We wanted to be where people want to be,” Abecassis said. “If we make it easy for them to come to us, they’ll come to us more often. If we make it harder for them to come to us, they’ll come to us less often. … Because there’s so much entertainment in that property and the entertainment is doing so well, it tells us when people come there they’re in an entertainment state of mind.”
The trend at malls is for multiple uses at a single shopping center, Purisch said. In addition to traditional retail and dining, Gulf Coast Town Center already is home to hotels, a health club and a movie theater, and the area where GameTime is moving in is a popular night spot for college students.
GameTime has the potential to bring in new customers who might not otherwise shop at the mall, Purisch said. The only nearby business offering a similar gaming experience is the new HeadPinz bowling and entertainment center about a mile north of Southwest Florida International Airport.
“Anytime you can add something that’s both new and unique to the shopping center, particularly shopping centers of our size, that’s a big win,” Purisch said.
GameTime is based in Davie, near Fort Lauderdale. The brand has been around for about five years, originating after parent company, M&A Group, acquired former GameWorks assets and combined them with its existing Token Cafe mall-based game rooms.
They have two flagship locations in Miami and Tampa — Fort Myers will be the third — as well as mall-based game rooms (without food and drinks) in Panama City, Mary Esther, Sebring and Vero Beach. The locations with restaurants offer higher-end bar food, Abecassis said.
Because GameTime is contained to one state and has only a handful of locations, Abecassis said they have the ability to rotate games on a regular basis, bringing in new attractions every few months to keep the arcades fresh. They’ll have a large selection of prizes — everything from novelty candies to Xbox systems, iPads, televisions, remote control helicopters and small appliances. Credits don’t expire, so customers can build them up over time to get the prizes they desire.
“We really want to offer something people want,” Abecassis said. “The bulk of our prizes are probably going to be above $10 cost but below a $300 cost.”
Recently, they’ve been converting the former bookstore shell into a space capable of housing a busy game and restaurant. That included adding power outlets, doubling the air conditioning capacity, replacing the fire alarm system and reworking the plumbing and electrical. A recent plumbing challenge — a particular line was not where it was supposed to be — set the project back over a month, Abecassis said. Now they’re back on track.
They’ve hired a general manager for the new store, but are still several weeks out from filling other positions, Abecassis said.
“We’re awfully close,” he said, “but we’re not at the finish line yet.”
GameTime Fort Myers – 10037 Gulf Center Drive, Ft. Myers, FL 33913 – 239-204-5964 – firstname.lastname@example.org