Being able to mobilize a high-performing team quickly, respond to challenges, and maximize the tools at your disposal make all the difference to success.

You can never know how one seemingly small moment can have a massive impact on your business. This week, we sat down with David Dimberio, owner of Combat Ops Entertainment in Fort Wayne, Indiana. He shared his team’s response to a social media wave that caused significant changes for his business. Their ability to remain agile, enthusiastic, and flexible made all the difference.

We’re sharing his story and the lessons we learned from Combat Ops’ experience.

The Background

Like other entertainment venues during COVID, David shared that Combat Ops was forced to close for several months. Upon reopening late last summer, traffic was slow at first but steadily picked up until they started feeling optimistic about the future. Then the unexpected happened.

The Moment Things Changed

“The craziest thing happened in January,” explained David, “all of a sudden, the phone started ringing off the hook. No sooner did we hang up than it would ring again. We didn’t know it at the time, but we had been mentioned in a list of things to do in Fort Wayne in a travel magazine, one of those Only In Your State type of articles. And it went semi-viral.”

Publicity like that is something that most businesses dream of, but in truth, it can be both a blessing and a curse if you’re not ready to handle the outcome. Luckily, Combat Ops General Managers Jason and Aspen, along with the rest of the team, were up to the challenge. Read on for six powerful lessons to learn from their experience.

No. 1: Move quickly.

You have one chance to make a first impression. When presented with an opportunity like increased traffic due to unexpected publicity, an unusual request for a facility buyout, a wild idea for a new offering, or whatever else, it pays to be able to move fast to set your team’s response in motion. Going from 1,200 to 1,500 new website visits per day to 50,000 means you have to quickly mobilize sales and operations staff to accommodate the new traffic.

No. 2: Build a strong culture.

Your team can make or break your guest experience, and when asked how David’s team handled the increased traffic, he admitted that it was a challenging time, but Aspen, Jason, and the rest of the team rallied together to deliver for Combat Ops’ guests.

“I won’t say that it was easy, but we’re very lucky to have several full-time, very committed team members, as well as some great high school part-timers who worked tirelessly to help maintain our guest experience,” said David. “They killed it, and it shows in our online guest reviews and in talking with guests at the facility. We handed out lots of bonuses to share in our success and keep morale up among staff. We couldn’t be prouder of them.”

Without a healthy team culture and a powerful leadership team, delivering on their instant-sensation status wouldn’t have been possible, and it’s a powerful lesson that we can all learn from. If, all of a sudden, your park became internet famous, would your staff rise to the challenge or crumble under the pressure? If the thought makes you break out into a cold sweat, it might be time to start investing in your company’s culture and building stronger ties with your team.

No. 3: Use your data wisely.

“We analyzed our website traffic and saw that we saw huge spikes in traffic, and we know from our CenterEdge data what the most popular attractions are. The article was written about our nerf tag specifically, but we bundle other attractions that give visitors a great time while they’re here. Being able to bundle attractions creatively is one of the things that we like most about the data we get from CenterEdge,” said David.

Data should be at the heart of almost every decision your facility makes. The Combat Ops team has a firm grasp on their target demographics and their sales and attraction popularity. Over time they have found that their primary demographic is the group of young adults who come for drinks and spend time with friends. Armed with this knowledge, they’re able to build packages, add new offerings, and tailor their look and feel for the audience(s) they want to entice to visit.

No. 4: Get creative.

Creativity and a growth mindset are two essential skills an operator can develop. For Combat Ops, their creativity shines throughout their entire experience. As soon as guests enter the facility, they meet the unexpected. The facility both indoors and out offers a “cozy, clubby sort of vibe that creates a compelling atmosphere, with lower ceilings to eliminate excess noise, and our urban theme with playful graffiti art ties everything together well,” according to David. The theme also carries into attraction and package names, descriptions, and ticket media. For example, guests purchasing a laser tag attraction receive dog tags instead of wristbands or tickets. It’s these kinds of details that create a fully immersive experience.

Part of using creativity effectively in family entertainment means being flexible to meet the evolving needs of your guests. When the Combat Ops team learned that many visitors were driving from five or six hours away just to visit the facility, they quickly worked with a local hotel to offer a special rate for their visitors.

* Photo courtesy of Combat Ops

No. 5: Maximize the tools available.

Combat Ops is not only a CenterEdge client but also employs CenterEdge Payments for merchant services. According to David, “CenterEdge has been great and helps us exceed sales records consistently. We’re booking more parties than ever and offering timed packages online and onsite with Capacity Ticketing. The software itself is as good as gold! It also made sense for us to deploy CenterEdge Payments. We save money, but more importantly, it’s easy to call support when I have issues. No matter what the issue is, I always know CenterEdge will make it right and help us resolve it. We’ve been using CenterEdge since 2017, and they’ve been good to us.”

No. 6: Keep growing.

Even while your business is experiencing a high level of success, there is never a wrong time to plan for the future. With so many new guests visiting Combat Ops, the team has received great feedback that will help them continue to evolve their business. When asked about the future, David says their team isn’t standing still. They’re planning to revamp signage outside the facility to enhance their existing theme. They’re also building a brand new website to further align with their mission and onsite experience. With a keen focus on the day-to-day and the future, it’s no surprise that big things are happening for this facility.


Special thanks to David Dimberio and the Combat Ops team for sharing their experience. Check out their website or visit them on your favorite social media platform. 

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