Esports & Big Parks
by Barry Zelickson
In this second installment of Fun Across America, we join our host Nate Reinhart and our film crew as they visit two locations at almost opposite ends of the amusement spectrum. First is an internet café turned gaming lounge complete with arcade games and the other, a three-site amusement park company on acres of land with just about every attraction a guest could want…and then some! Tune in with us again – and look for ideas you can use in your own locations – as we scope out more Fun Across America:
Ignite Gaming Lounge – Skokie, Illinois
Who knew a childhood love of gaming could turn into a successful one-of-a-kind entertainment business? Well, that’s the case for Sam Oanta. As a teenager, the avid gamer, along with his brothers, would invite friends over to play in their living room (turned game room), which sparked the beginnings of what is now known as Ignite Gaming Lounge.
With an entrepreneurial spirit and a passion for gaming, Sam and his siblings initially established an internet café that offered gaming services, PC repair and printing facilities. Years later, Ignite Gaming Lounge has evolved into a sprawling 18,000-sq.-ft. facility, combining cutting-edge technology with a welcoming environment for friends and families to enjoy.
Alongside PC gaming, Xbox, console booths and VR experiences, the lounge hosts competitive esports events, allowing serious gamers to showcase their skills and participate in competitions. By fostering a competitive environment, Ignite supports the growth of esports locally and encourages players to strive for excellence.
Sam and his brothers’ visionary approach has enabled them to transform Ignite into a hub for esports enthusiasts, where they can engage with like-minded individuals and elevate their gaming prowess. Not only can visitors immerse themselves in an unparalleled social gaming experience, they can also aspire to be rock stars. Ignite provides Rock Band booths, allowing guests to unleash their inner musicians. The lounge’s dedication is to staying ahead of the curve which ensures that visitors can enjoy the latest gaming technologies in a modern and comfortable setting.
No gaming experience is complete without satisfying food and drinks. To enhance the overall experience, Ignite also offers an exceptional food and beverage program, including craft cocktails and delectable chef-inspired dishes. While onsite, we spoke to a repeat patron who described Ignite as “a place where gaming meets entertainment and epicurean delight.”
The food and beverage director Les Reed crafted a menu combining eye-catching presentations with delicious flavors. While treating our host Nate Reinhart to an assortment of incredible tastings, Reed explained that his creations “are not only Instagrammable but also ‘crushable’ too,” ensuring guests have a memorable gastronomic experience.
Ignite’s food and beverage program is designed with gamers in mind, too, offering table service that allows guests to refuel without interrupting their gameplay. It seamlessly integrates dining and gaming, making Ignite the ideal destination for fun.
Moreover, Ignite provides a spacious event area for community gatherings, private celebrations and corporate functions. To diversify their entertainment lineup even further, they recently added a 35-game arcade.
From humble beginnings to a state-of-the-art gaming lounge, Ignite fuels the passion of gaming enthusiasts while providing a memorable and immersive social experience, solidifying its position as a premier gaming lounge in Skokie, Ill.
Fun Spot America – Orlando, Florida
From live gators to the world’s tallest SkyCoaster, Fun Spot America has it all! A renowned amusement park located in Orlando, Florida, this family-owned establishment has become a cornerstone of the amusement industry, offering a wide range of attractions and activities to visitors of all ages. It was great to explore the captivating world of Fun Spot America and interesting to learn about the family’s remarkable journey in building an entertainment empire.
Fun Spot America, founded by the Arie family, opened as a small, five-acre park on Christmas Eve 1997 and has been transformed into a sprawling 15-acre amusement park today. They also have locations in Kissimmee, Florida, and Fayetteville, Georgia.
During our visit to their Orlando Park location, Nate sat down with CEO John Arie Jr., who attributed their success to their well-rounded business approach. “It’s like a three-legged stool,” he said, explaining that what makes Fun Spot so successful is good operations, marketing and maintenance.
Fun Spot prides itself on offering a diverse range of attractions and rides that cater to visitors of all preferences. From thrilling coasters and family rides to go-karts, kiddie rides and an arcade midway, the park ensures something for everyone. There are also unique features setting Fun Spot apart from other amusement parks like their multi-level go-kart track, Orlando’s only wooden roller coaster and having the second-tallest SkyCoaster in the world at 250 feet. Not to worry, the tallest SkyCoaster in the world at 300 feet is at their Kissimmee location!
Outside of entertaining guests, you might wonder what else unites the Ignite Gaming Lounge and Fun Spot America. It is that both exemplify the power of passion, innovation and entrepreneurship in the entertainment industry. From a small living room transformed into a state-of-the-art gaming facility, Ignite continues to evolve and captivate gamers with its cutting-edge offerings, competitive events and exceptional F&B program. On the larger end of the amusement spectrum, Fun Spot America highlights the importance of operations, marketing and maintenance in building a successful park. With their commitment to creating memorable experiences for guests, both Ignite Gaming Lounge and Fun Spot America are shining examples of how dedication and a deep understanding of their target audience can lead to the creation of exceptional entertainment destinations.
You can check out these fun places and others at the Fun Across America YouTube episodes www.youtube.com/ @funacrossamerica/videos.
Barry Zelickson, is the co-creator of Fun Across America, a YouTube channel travelogue show. Zelickson has worked in the entertainment field for almost 30 years and has been awarded several IAAPA Brass Ring awards including one of the association’s highest honors, Family Entertainment Center of the World. His other projects include commercials, infomercials, feature films, documentaries, live events and entertainment centers.
Nate Reinhart, host and co-creator of Fun Across America, is a content creator for NalterDeeds and NalterCards on YouTube and content consultant for creators and businesses alike. After a shoutout from MrBeast, Nate has accumulated over 250,000 subscribers on his YouTube channels.