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"Bumper boat ponds will cost from $100,000 and up when equipped with 8 or more boats, fiberglass liners, water filtration and treatment equipment, safety fencing and lighting..."

By Peter F. Olesen

Too often, people start planning a family entertainment facility (herein referred to as an FEC) with little or no realistic information concerning the costs involved.

Limited Budgets

We constantly hear from people with projected budgets under $100,000.00 because they have obtained no realistic information prior to establishing their concept. There are no good reference books in the library, to our knowledge, that can realistically prepare newcomers for the enormity of their projects.

While it is possible to develop a small indoor facility with one or two budget attractions or a small miniature golf course in a leased location, for that small a budget, most facilities will cost far more. This is especially true when the FEC will include multiple attractions.

Developing a Full Attraction Mix

Land costs for facilities can range from several thousand dollars to more than $500,000.00 an acre depending on the location. The cost of constructing pre-engineered buildings can easily exceed $40.00 a square foot before equipping them with attractions. Leasing floor space in existing malls or other buildings for indoor facilities can range from $2.50 to more than $20.00 a square foot.

In considering the land cost of the site it is important to recognize the value of location. A more costly site may be far more profitable. Don’t skimp in the selection of your site. Remember, people don’t want their trip to an FEC to become an expedition. Ease of finding your site is a major requirement. Check out the neighborhood. Will your site be in an attractive well-lit location or in a rundown industrial park or neighborhood that will drive customers away rather than attract them? Your site should be well lit from the point of access, in the parking lot and throughout your entire facility. An important thing to remember is that you are responsible for security in your parking lot as well as within your building or in and around your outdoor attractions.

Developing one's own business plan can easily take hundreds of hours or more. While this is often performed as "sweat-equity", it still is a cost that should be considered. Don’t forget the costs of design professionals, marketers, lawyers and other business consultants that you may require in order to have your house in order when starting your project.

A large number of outdoor FECs include miniature golf, concession go-karts, bumper boats and relatively small buildings containing arcade/snack bar/restrooms and office facilities. These sites may range from 3 ½ to 10 acres or more. 

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