Good eye needed to win at 3D Family Fun Center

Brandon Stauffer offers a confession that, to aficionados of miniature golf, amounts to something just this side of heresy.

3D Family Fun Center, the miniature golf/laser tag/party center developed by Stauffer and partner Joe Walsh, originally didn’t have a windmill hole.

“Everybody we talked to about our miniature golf course said, ‘Oh, you’re gonna have a windmill,’ ” Stauffer says. “It’s not that we overlooked it.”

Taking the hint, Stauffer and Walsh swapped out a theater-themed hole – each hole on the 18-hole course is themed – and added a windmill.

A few weeks ago, with that whole windmill misunderstanding behind them, Stauffer and Walsh officially opened 3D Family Fun Center in what used to be several storefronts in a shopping plaza at 3315 E. Russell Road.

The center includes the 18-hole 3-D golf course – which also can be played sans the optional 3-D glasses – a laser tag arena, video games (including classic “Galaga” and “Ms. Pac-Man”) and a party center.

Running a family fun center is an only slightly different career choice for Stauffer and Walsh. Stauffer was stage manager for “Criss Angel: ‘Believe’ ” before leaving to manage the center full time, while co-owner Walsh is general stage manager for Cirque du Soleil’s “O.”

Stauffer says he and Walsh “have been talking about this for a number of years, and it’s just the right time.

“All the research that we did before we opened (showed) that one of the things needed most, even in a recession, is places for families to go and enjoy entertainment that is family-friendly.”

The center’s laser tag arena can accommodate as many as 11 players at a time, and six different games are available, Stauffer says.

The miniature golf course features 18 black light-illuminated holes. For an additional $1.50, guests can rent 3-D glasses that reveal each hole’s hovering polka dots, giant popcorn boxes and other three-dimensional effects.

Unlike most miniature golf courses, each hole has its own theme. In addition, the holes are in different rooms, rather than on one open expanse of space.

“We wanted (at) every hole to have something new to look at,” Stauffer says. “We didn’t want a traditional miniature golf course that’s kind of the same for all 18 holes.”

The 3-D effects, created by artist Michelle Honey, are the result of “a specialized process” that involves using a different color palette and different artistic techniques than usual, Stauffer says.

Players who don’t rent 3-D glasses still can enjoy the black light effects and hole designs.

In fact, Stauffer says, “a lot of people play once with the glasses and then without the glasses to see if they can do better on the course.”

Also available at 3D Family Fun Center is a party room. Party packages begin at $135 and include pizza, soda and games.

While the center’s clientele so far has been heavy on kids with their parents, “we’ve gotten a lot of people on dates – the twentysomethings on dates,” Stauffer notes.

Among that demographic was a group of guests who, surprisingly enough, “didn’t know how to play miniature golf,” Walsh says.

“It was really kind of delightful,” Stauffer adds. “And the best part is, they’ll always judge miniature golf by ours.”

Prices for 18 holes of miniature golf are $8.50 general admission, $7.50 for students and seniors, and $5 for children 4 and younger. 3-D glasses are $1.50 extra, and a family package for two kids and two adults is $30.

Laser tag prices are $5 with a round of golf and $7 without, and Stauffer says an average game runs from five to 10 minutes.

The center also offers weeknight specials, including family night on Mondays, laser tag night on Tuesdays, mini golf night on Wednesdays, and Date Night on Thursdays with two-for-one pricing.

Stauffer says he and Walsh spent almost six months scouting locations for their new business.

“We do have competition in Las Vegas. We know that,” Stauffer says. “But we placed ourself where we feel there is a benefit to all of us.

“We didn’t want to be next door to any of our competitors. We didn’t want to try to take anybody’s market. We just want it to grow.”

“To open a business in this climate is hard,” Stauffer adds, “but there are a lot of perks for opening a business right now. There are a lot of good people out there ready to help small businesses, and that’s what we found in our process.”

The 3D Family Fun Center is open from 1 to 10 p.m. Monday through Thursday, noon to 1 a.m. Friday, 10 a.m. to 1 a.m. Saturday and 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday.

For information, visit the center’s website (www.3Dfamilyfuncenter.com) or call 608-4653.

Contact reporter John Przybys at jprzybys@review journal.com or 702-383-0280.

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