As entertainment facilities around the country are reopening, this operator shares his optimism.

This week, we spoke to Darren Harmon, of Bullwinkle’s Wilsonville, in Wilsonville, Oregon, about their successes and challenges in the first few weeks of reopening.  Bullwinkle’s Wilsonville is a recently renovated indoor-outdoor facility that features miniature golf, a restaurant, go-karts and outdoor rides, boutique bowling, laser tag, an arcade and more.

Read on as Darren shares a few Do’s and Don’ts his team has learned that we think will help give you some peace of mind about your own chances at reopening successfully in the days and weeks to come.

No. 1: Be proactive.

Harmon: During this whole process, there haven’t really been reopening guidelines from our local health and government officials specific to our type of business, so we created our own reopening guide and are following it to the letter. We wrote a comprehensive plan that included everything from social distancing to sanitization, which we then sent to the governor, state representatives, and county commissioners so that we could be ready when the time came.  That’s a piece of advice I have for operators who haven’t yet opened. Don’t be afraid to talk to local officials about your plans. Pay close attention to, and in contact with, local health officials and develop your own plans so that you can open as soon as possible.

In fact, soon after opening, competitors started calling and asking how we did it. Lately, we having also been sharing our guide and helping them since it will benefit our whole community.

No. 2: Be prepared.

Harmon: Our plan covers every aspect of our park and we’ve thought through and documented when we plan to open each attraction, where we’re placing sanitizing stations, and how we’re managing social distancing and cleaning between guests. For example, one of our currently open attractions is our four-lane go kart track. We’ll load guests onto Lane One, and while they’re on the track, we’re cleaning the next lane, so that we’re ready to send the next group out when the first comes back. We’re managing attraction capacity, wait time, sanitization, and guests can see that we care about their experience.

In our arcade, we didn’t move games around or remove them, instead, we manage social distancing by turning game card swipers off so that guests can easily see which games are available during their time at the facility. This also helps keep the arcade visually appealing since all the games are still on, and we didn’t have to move anything. We can also make games available on different days or at different times, which adds an element of “newness” while we are waiting to open other attractions in future phases. Then, of course, we have team members stationed to clean games as guests finish them.

No. 3: Be excited.

NOW-OPEN-GOLF-BullwinklesHarmon: Currently, we’re operating about 70% of our facility’s attractions, and traffic has been slow but increases as we are able to offer more. Because of that, our management team has had to step in and take on more of the day to day shift operation. We had some key players who couldn’t wait to get back in here, and we were all excited to be together again.  Now, we’re trying to determine the best time to bring back the rest of our amazing staff to meet both our operational needs and those of our teams. They’re so important to what we do.

In terms of guest response, the people who visit have all been excited, and grateful to be out. They’ve all been good about social distancing, and about 50% of our guests have worn masks at the facility. That’s one more thing I would say to those getting ready to open; there will be a very small amount of negative response you’ll get to your reopening plan, but don’t let that deter you. The guests that visit you first will be just as excited as you are.

No. 4: Be creative.

Harmon: While we were closed, we wanted to stay connected with our community, but we didn’t want to just do typical promotions. One of our sales team members, Skip, came up with the craziest idea. He created a character named Pistachio and recorded a bunch of Instagram video adventures feature himself and Pistachio “Home Alone at Bullwinkle’s”. They played air hockey, took wacky photo booth pictures, went bowling. It was silly, but people loved it and our video engagement was huge.  It was such a great way to stay connected to people and top of mind. So don’t be afraid to push the envelope and get creative.

No. 5: Be optimistic.

Harmon: It would be easy to just focus on the negative, but that’s not what we’re in business to do. We’re getting positive reviews and thankful guests commenting every day. And even though we lost events while we were closed, many graduation events are rescheduling, which is great. We’re seeing more guests now than even two weeks ago, and though it will take time, we know our industry will come back strong. So just keep that in mind.

Special thanks to Darren and the rest of the team at Bullwinkle’s Wilsonville. Be sure to connect with them on Facebook or Instagram and say ‘hi’ to Pistachio for us when you do. 


*Photos provided by Bullwinkle’s Wilsonville.

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