Business is hopping in DFW’s family-fun industry

Jun 1, 2012

Dallas Business Journal - June 1, 2012 - by Steven R. Thompson

In Dallas-Fort Worth, the lack of natural outdoor activity is often cited as one of the region's downfalls when it comes to quality of life, but some businesses have used this to their advantage, building family entertainment centers that cater to residents looking for family fun.

"The family entertainment sector shouldn't be stereotyped into a bounce-house experience. It is so much broader and includes these really first-class operators," said Kelly Hampton, senior vice president at Dallas-based Venture Commercial.

About four years ago, Venture started a division called Venturetainment, which specializes in the hospitality sector. The company has worked on such venues as Legoland in Grapevine and Going Bonkers in Lewisville, but now that sector seems growing even more. That division now represents about 50 percent of the company's tenant representation work.

Family entertainment centers in the United States have seen moderate growth in the past five years, growing about 0.6 percent annually since 2006, according the Santa Monica, Calif.-based IBISWorld. Including golf-driving ranges, they are a $9 billion industry in the U.S.

Venture just brokered a deal for new 16,000-square-foot KidMania in Plano and is also handling real estate for Dallas-based Dave & Buster's for about a third of the country, including its new flagship location under construction at Walnut Hill and Interstate 75.

The Seasons 52 at NorthPark Center will be located between Neiman Marcus and Dillard's, with entrances from both inside the mall and street side, and will offer complimentary valet parking.

"They have gone to a much more contemporary look. It will pull people off the freeway that may not have gone back in a long time," said Larry Leon, partner at Venture.

But entertainment centers for Venture reached explosive sizes last year with the planned $1.5 billion, 433-acre Nebraska Furniture Mart site in The Colony. Venture brokered the land sale.

"Nebraska is going to open up in what is theoretically a very competitive category, both on the Web and the retail community, but they are creating such an experience." Leon said.

The Omaha-based furniture company saw DFW as a perfect place for its next location, which is said to include a theme park, hotel, restaurants and retail.

Hampton and Leon believe their focus on entertainment facilities works so well due to DFW's lack of outdoor activities and abundance of people wanting to go out.

Other companies have seen Dallas' potential for entertainment in recent years. Chandler, Ariz.-based National Trampoline Entertainment Centers LLC is opening its second DFW Cosmic Jump location. The company already has an Allen location and plans to open a 22,900-square-foot location in a vacant Bassett Furniture store in Lewisville.

"We felt like the DFW area was a strong marketplace that had strong family values, and there was a desire for family entertainment. There was disposable income," said Chief Operating Officer Amanda Stewart.

The trampoline facility caters to pre-teens and teens, with a DJ booth and black-light lighting, Stewart said. Cosmic Jump often goes into retail centers, taking up 20,000 to 25,000 square feet.

Cosmic Jump works with Steve Koldyke of CBRE and plans to find a third location in the next few months.

Companies that have had entertainment facilities in the Dallas area for years are also investing more money into their properties. Harvest Family Entertainment, which operates four Hawaiian Falls waterparks in the area, invested $7.8 million in improving the facilities with new rides.

Parks in The Colony, Mansfield, Roanoke and Garland operate under public-private partnerships, said CEO Dave Busch. "We pay a couple hundred thousand dollars a year to lease the properties from the cities," he said.

Hawaiian Falls saw 850,000 visitors last year and expects to break 1 million this year with its new Waco location.

Venture Commercial's focus on entertainment has helped the company in times when the future of retail was uncertain, Leon said.

"When the Web started to get really popular, they really didn’t know what was going to happen to bricks-and-sticks retail," Leon said. "People are looking for an experience. They still want to go out on weekends."