FT. LAUDERDALE, FL — David Goldfarb’s doctrine of diversity began, pardoxically, with a single blade of grass. He got his start in the street operating business while still a student at the University of Central Florida, by installing Namco’s Cyberball in a sub sandwich shop. Fourteen years later, he still runs a street operation in south Florida, under the name PrimeTime Amusements, but this passionate entrepreneur says today’s success lies with diversification.
Next month, Goldfarb and his partners are opening a $5 million, 100,000-sq.ft. family entertainment center here. Branded under the name Xtreme Indoor Karting, the FEC features indoor go-karts, two arcades, a sports bar and three rooms dedicated to corporate meetings and team-building activities.
The facility is a cooperative venture between PrimeTime Amusements; indoor go-kart expert Bill Mulder and landlord EJ Plesko & Associates. Interior design is by Miami-based PKG, a graphics and printing company that is also listed as a sponsor. Phase two of the FEC’s rollout, slated for mid-2007, will add another 25,000 sq.ft., allowing the addition of 150 games, batting cages and rock climbing.
Xtreme Indoor Karting is envisioned as the flagship operation of a planned chain. The partners are currently negotiating for a 90,000 sq. ft. site in downtown Chicago. A Las Vegas branch could follow in the next year or two.
To stay competitive in today’s challenging market, Goldfarb says: “What we’ve done is diversify. We operate in gamerooms and street locations. We import and sell our own line of four European interactive sports simulator machines and run a nationwide machine rentals business. And now, we’re getting into the indoor destination entertainment business.”
Like many of his fellow operators, David Goldfarb is an aggressive competitor. He is not a man given to nuanced remarks or cautious hedging. Instead, he prefers to cast his opinions in terms of bold superlatives and extremes. During a single conversation, it’s not unusual to hear Goldfarb opine that X is great, Y is terrible and that if only Z were instituted it would revolutionize the entire amusements industry overnight.
PrimeTime Amusements’ street route focuses on bars in Miami-Dade and Broward counties with a mix of jukeboxes, countertops and pool tables.
“Everyone will tell you street operations are declining, especially the video game sector,” he insists. “They would be lying if they didn’t.” Goldfarb is equally strident when it comes to identifying the culprit for the street’s woes. “The 50-50 split is destroying the industry. Larger operators are going toward 60-40 splits in the operator’s favor. Smaller operators can only compete in one way: by offering the location a bigger share of the cashbox. But even that won’t save them in the long run; you can’t stay in business on that ratio.
“With the price of equipment and overhead today, it’s just not good business to give out even 50-50,” he continues With new equipment it should be 75% for the operator and 25% for locations. If our industry put that policy into effect across the board, the street operating business would rebound overnight.”
PrimeTime Amusements’ rental business appears to be flourishing. The company caters to large corporate functions as well as private parties, and will truck the equipment to hotels, backyards or wherever the customer needs it. The company fleet comprises three full-sized vans, two big box trucks and one pickup.
To solicit business, PrimeTime works with professional events planners and destination management companies. They also maintain a website and exhibit at event-planning trade shows. “Short term, the rental business is uneven, with big ups and downs,” Goldfarb observed. “Basically, annual rental income is steady, but it’s spotty. The bottom line is always there by the end of the year, though.”
On a good month, PrimeTime handles up to five rental events, although some months they don’t have any. Their fee schedule imposes a minimum order of $1,000. This can be achieved in any number of ways. Each machine has a different rental price; renting one machine for one day can cost anywhere from $200 to $8,500. A recent success saw PrimeTime earn $25,000 by renting 20 machines for four hours.
Branded under PrimeTime’s own name, the company also acquires “very physical” interactive sports simulators from a European source. The line includes two colorful uprights; PrimeTime Arm-Wrestler invites competitors to arm-wrestle and become the ultimate tough guy, and PrimeTime Knockout! is a punching bag game that tests both speed and strength. Two table games offer air hockey and a variation called Crazy Squash, featuring a U-shaped playfield.
A soccer-themed simulator called PrimeTime Kicker lets players kick a real ball to see their speed and power measured and displayed on a backboard meter. PrimeTime has displayed these games at the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions Expo and the International Nightclub & Bar Trade Show. Goldfarb operates 50 of the boxing games in his tavern accounts, where, he says, they’re earning very well.
The decisive moment in his evolution as an operator may have come in 1999. Until that year, he was strictly a street operator. Then he successfully bid for a gameroom account at the Porto Fino Hotel, a Universal Studios property.
Next came the Hard Rock Hotel’s gameroom, followed by arcades for the Royal Pacific Resorts Hotel, a Loews property at, you guessed it, Universal Studios. After that, PrimeTime landed more Orlando gameroom and arcade accounts in Universal Studios Theme Park itself, as well as the Universal CityWalk (NASCAR Café) and Island of Adventure at Universal.
Clearly, PrimeTime’s “empire” embraces a wide variety of segments. But Goldfarb is frank about which he views as the most viable. “We think our Ft. Lauderdale site will be the future of our company,” he predicts.
Based on his experience in the rental business, Goldfarb knows the corporate market has plenty of discretionary spending and he intends to get a much bigger slice of that pie with his new FEC.
“The business model for Xtreme Indoor Karting will focus on corporate team-building activities,” he explained. “That will drive revenues. Companies will rent the entire site for $40,000 for four hours.”
PrimeTime Amusements’ diverse business strategy may prove to be a viable model. If so, it bodes well for an industry that seems forever suspended between old challenges and new opportunities.
Xtreme Indoor Karting is located at 5300 Powerline Rd., Ft. Lauderdale, FL 33309; xtremeindoorkarting.com. PrimeTime Amusements, tel. (305) 770-4263 or (800) 550-0090. its website is primetimeamusments.com.