Dezerland Makes Everything Big
Largest Miami FEC Set to be Completed This Spring
by Matt Harding
Michael Dezer founded Dezer Properties in 1970 and built it into a prominent New York City commercial real estate company, buying up and developing properties one after another in the city’s Chelsea neighborhood when few others would.
For that, he earned the nickname “Mr. Pac-Man.”
Starting in 1985, he continued living up to that name in South Florida, picking up properties one by one. Today, he’s one of the largest oceanfront property owners in Sunny Isles Beach, 10 miles north of Miami Beach.
So it should come as no surprise that he’s opened up Dezerland, a massive 250,000-square-foot family entertainment center spread across two adjacent buildings in North Miami with Pac-Man among its 200-plus arcade games.
Grandiose might actually be too meek a word to describe the venue, which opened in summer 2018 and should be fully completed by spring 2019.
Aside from the arcade, Dezerland has a virtual reality park, Ninja Lounge and Academy with a trampoline park, dodgeball courts and basketball hoops, a gymnastics training center with parkour, “reball” (which is like paintless paintball), bumper cars and even more coming soon.
“We’re building a mega center,” Dezer said. “We believe in making everything big.”
The specialty of that mega center will be the go-kart track — a major part of the “big, big, big” theme at the largest FEC in South Florida. (By the way, Dezer is a co-owner of Xtreme Action Park in Ft. Lauderdale. At just over 200,000 square feet, it previously made the same claim).
That centerpiece go-kart track will occupy 50,000 square feet — two adult tracks that will accommodate 10 cars at a time and a junior track that will accommodate seven. The go-karts — electric powered by lithium ion batteries built by London’s Biz Karts — have the ability to go up to 40 miles per hour though, of course, the junior karts will be set at a lower speed. Race time will average at about 9-10 minutes.
The track, whose barriers will be manufactured by Xtreme Barriers, will have LED flashing lights following the cars, jumbotron screens in the middle of the track and a drive-thru area with smoke, lasers and wall projections at the start-finish line. A destination in itself at Dezerland, there will be three event rooms looking onto the track as well.
The 200-piece arcade, already a main attraction at Dezerland, is filled with variety and spread throughout the main area of the warehouse-style building. Among the newer video titles are The Walking Dead, Jurassic Park and Cruis’n Blast from Raw Thrills, The Giant ticket crane from Smart Industries and Fireball from Benchmark. Pingames like Stern’s Ghostbusters and Star Wars are also arcade favorites.
But Dezerland is filled with classics too — and not only Pac-Man. Among them: Namco’s 1981 hit Galaga, Nintendo’s Popeye from 1982 and Midway’s Mortal Combat (1992) are among the retro faves. While it’s mostly video games in the arcade, players will also find a few air hockey tables and Skee-Ball, as well as some redemption units, too.
Dezer also said he switches out games occasionally, swapping them between the new Dezerland facility and Xtreme Action Park, depending on which games are doing better in either location.
Another highlight of Dezerland is its VR park, which — you guessed it — is the largest of its kind in Miami, according to the owner.
“Virtual reality is very popular right now,” Dezer said, boasting that they were the first in Miami to open with a VR park concept.
Within, players can chose from different VR games and experiences, such as Exo by Hook Studios, Extreme-Machine by Xtrematic, VR Skiing by Guangzhou Movie Power Technology Co. and VR Reactor by Playground.
Active play is highlighted at Dezerland and perhaps nowhere is that more evident than in the facility’s major attraction, the Ninja Lounge and Academy, a behemoth in its own right. It’s a trampoline park and gymnastics training center with dodgeball courts, basketball hoops and even a parkour setup (parkour is a training discipline that developed from military obstacle course training and the latest Olympic sport). There are additional obstacle courses and other training opportunities as well, not to mention space for karate classes and the like.
Also nearby is the Mind Lab Center, described as a “play-based, mindful approach to exploring.” It’s a day care center for children 18 months to 5 years old located on the second floor of Dezerland, quite unique among family entertainment centers.
Rounding out the attractions are bumper cars and mini bowling.
“We have so much variety for children,” Dezer said, mentioning his own two granddaughters love to play at the park.
With a smattering of just about everything under the family entertainment sun, Dezerland plays host to many birthday parties, corporate events, fundraisers, bar mitzvahs and all sorts of different gatherings.
With that, food plays a role in the business as well with a 1950s-style restaurant, serving classic American food that brings in about 20 percent of revenue.
But the focus at Dezerland is on the fun and family. And, of course, aiming to be the best — and certainly biggest.