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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.

Fun Center - 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 fun center 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. 

Attraction Costs

Attractions to be included within a facility have a wide range of costs. Many of these costs can be mitigated by purchasing used equipment, rides or attractions, renting or leasing equipment and other steps that may reduce the total initial fiscal impact, but they all have ongoing costs that must be considered.

There are a number of formats for establishing arcade and redemption game rooms that range from purchase to leasing, renting or revenue sharing. While each has its advantages and disadvantages, they all result in either up front costs or ongoing expenses. Proper planning in establishing the financing format, selection of specific equipment and developing a sound ongoing operational plan can result in significant revenues.

Snack bar installations can range from less than $20,000 to more than $100,000. amusement center floor plansThey can be self-developed or developed in conjunction with equipment manufacturers, franchisers, food venders or by restaurant consultants. Sometimes the planned magnitude of the food services may dictate the approach used. In all situations, however, there are up front and ongoing costs involved. Care should be taken in planning food operations. If the site you plan to develop isn't a natural location for a restaurant, don't expect a fun center to create the volume of traffic required for success. What I'm trying to say is, know your market potential before getting carried away. Most FECs do not generate average stays that result in a high food demand. A good practice would be to keep it simple until actual experience and customer requests define the need for expanded facilities and menus.

Batting cages in many areas are very seasonal in their heavy usage. Care should be taken when developing projected revenues for a given site. Should you decide to develop a batting cage facility you should be aware that there are two basic systems available and that each has its supporters. These are the pitching arm machines and the wheel systems. Full systems can easily cost $100,000 or more when multiple bays and multiple pitching machines are planned.

Concession go-kart tracks can be assumed to cost in the range of $230 to $260 dollars per foot, depending on their length. This includes grading, paving, barrier system, lighting, pit facilities, canopy and perimeter fencing. Karts can run from slightly under $3,000.00 to more than $5,000 each, depending on the type, style and horsepower. Rookie tracks and kiddie tracks would be less expensive.

For most locations, a family road course would be the first choice, as they have the largest target market and better serve a total family entertainment center environment. When the market is large enough and your budget and available space permit, additional specialty tracks can be added to the site mix to further increase revenues. These can include “adult slick road courses”, High banked ovals or tri-ovals, rookie tracks and kiddie tracks.

Electric bumper boats have become the accepted standard because of their clean operation and environmentally friendly design. 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.

Miniature golf courses can range from small budget courses (costing $30,000 to $100,000) to major adventure golf facilities in the multi-million dollar range. The more common price range for FEC miniature golf courses is from $100,000 to $500,000, except in heavy tourism areas where the sky is the limit.

Many smaller outdoor attractions can be added to the primary mix that cost anywhere from $10,000 to more than $80,000. These include bounce attractions, WaterWars, shooting galleries, carousels and other flat rides, and various other small attractions.

Major indoor attractions can include electric go-karts (selected because of air quality concerns and their performance options), mini-coasters and large flat rides that would each cost several hundred thousand dollars.

Other indoor attractions include bumper cars, miniature lane bowling, soft play, laser tag, arcade games, miniature golf courses, flat rides, inflatables, trains, mini-coasters and related attractions. None of these attractions are inexpensive, with individual elements costing up to $100,000 and more.

Establishing Budgets

In addition to the above costs are such items as on-site sidewalks, landscaping, area lighting, parking lot paving, on-site drainage (and often storm detention facilities), security fences and signage.

The above represents a look at many of the individual attractions included in a large percentage of FECs being designed today. There are other options available including paint ball, climbing walls and laser shooting galleries. Larger facilities have also included dancing, full-scale bowling, roller and ice skating, children’s edutainment centers and full service restaurants. Some have included skate boarding and water park attractions. We do not have valid pricing for these elements at this time, but they all have significant costs, and anyone seeking to develop any of them, should research their costs carefully.

When establishing budgets, don’t forget the costs for salaries, consumables, insurance, marketing, utilities and related costs that all have a strong impact on your bottom line. Your budget should include some provisions for addressing lost revenues due to bad weather, economic downturns and other events that may occur.

It should be understood that the above cost projections are general in nature, but based on experience with actual projects. Specific projects may have different costs, but unless you are technically familiar with all of the elements of your project in terms of projected costs, the above should at least get you in the ballpark.

We would invite others familiar with the industry to make their comments relative to the cost information presented in this article. 

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First online with a single website "fecnetwork.com" in 1999, the FEC Network was incorporated 3 years later in 2002. As we continue to grow, we have added other domains and websites to meet the changing amusement landscape, the diversity of our visitors and the services we provide. Thanks for visiting our site(s)... I hope we can add some value to your business venture.

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