American Resort Management helps create turnkey family entertainment center to anchor new hotel and attractions
JAY, VT -- How do you top off a quarter-billion dollar resort investment in Jay, VT? The answer is simple: with an FEC. Central to the newly renovated Hotel Jay & Conference Center is an entertainment center that plays a key role in the transformation of the famed Jay Peak Resort into a year-round destination for vacationers, day skiers and conference-goers.
Opening this ski season is the Pump House, an indoor water park with retractable roof, and the Elevation 1851' family entertainment center, which houses a wide assortment of redemption and arcade videogames. Both are adjacent to the Hotel Jay, which boasts 178 rooms and 15,000-sq.ft. of meeting space, and is just steps aware from the ski slopes. The Pump House and Elevation FEC add another 50,000 and 2,700 square feet, respectively, to the new complex. Skiers, aquatic sliders, gamers and convention-goers are now strolling into the venue in flip-flops or ski boots.
Considering this winter's lackluster snow totals in Vermont's Northeast Kingdom -- and Jay Peak is the state's northernmost ski resort, with a normal natural snowfall of 376" per season -- more New England ski resorts are looking for ways to "weatherproof" ski vacations. Now Jay Peak is encouraging visitors to bring their skis, their snowboards and their bathing suits.
photo | YEAR-ROUND: The Pump House captures the local essence of Jay Peak with thrilling slides and offers high-end rental cabanas and cozy indoor and outdoor whirlpools and spas. Constructed by Aquatic Development Group (Cohoes, NY), the indoor adventures include Aquatic's famous "Double Barrel" two-boarder FlowRider surf simulator and "La Chute," the only indoor 60-ft., looping, free-fall body slide.
WE GET IT
It's not the first time a waterpark has been installed at a ski area, but Jay Peak's effort is among the most ambitious, and it's only one of four resorts in the country offering year-round full services. Taking on the challenge to create a memorable game experience was American Resort Management LLC (Erie, PA). "My company was hired to be an operational consultant through the hotel development," said Richard Coleman, ARM's senior vice-president of development and operations. "We get waterparks, and we get FECs. We understand the importance of operating all the ancillary revenue centers for a seamless guest experience. We like to say, 'The better you can create an environment that feels like a cruise ship on land the better.'"
Following feasibility studies and other analyses for the project, Coleman told VT, ARM and Jay Peak needed to determine if the resort should own and operate the FEC itself, or if it should contract with an independent operator.
"Late in 2010 we were given blueprints of where the arcade would exist," he explained. "And we determined it would be better to run their own arcade. So we designed it, sketched out a game list and the layout of the room, and created a turnkey operation."
Developing that turnkey solution was a top-to-bottom event. It didn't mean just moving in the games and turning on the lights. It included a full menu of management and operational functions that would allow Jay Peak management to keep the FEC running smoothly long into the future. Earning projections, selecting venders, creating manuals with standard operating procedures and training staff were among those critical functions.
With careful planning in place, American Resort Management was able to make its deadline for opening day on Dec. 9. Coleman recalled, "We had carpet going down on a Monday and games going in six hours later on Tuesday."
The FEC, now only one of a few in northern Vermont, is comprised of the best performers in each game category that weighted toward "family and friend" games.
"There aren't many gamerooms in northern Vermont. People there haven't grown up with a lot of redemption opportunities," Coleman said. "So, we've taken steps to make sure they have good quality products for prizes, like Xboxes and cameras. We're looking for good repeat visitation."
As a result, he reported, redemption attractions make up 80% of the gameroom and are programmed to be affordable with "a little bit more than normal payout percentages." A well-stocked redemption counter complements the games. The game balance consists of contemporary videogames and other arcade staples like air hockey.
PHOTO | ARCADE ANCHOR: Elevation 1851' offers a wide variety of redemption games complemented with the latest video simulators, air hockey and other coin-op pursuits. Embed's multipurpose cashless card and POS system automates the operation. The amusement equipment was supplied by Betson New England (Canton, MA).
In order to operate profitably and efficiently, the Elevation 1851' FEC was designed to function with a staff of only two to four at any given time. To reduce the workload, Embed Systems' tracking and debit card technology is used for a variety of tasks: from cashless game activation to administering redemption accounts. Embed's touchscreen point-of-sales system is the main component to any operation using its products, which have been installed in more than 1,000 locations worldwide.
"It saves time and money, and I'm a huge fan [of Embed] already," Coleman said. "The labor-savings result makes the turnkey FEC option easier," he explained. Jay Peak's fun center also works with a prize supplier affiliated with Embed, making the interface that manages redemption-prize supplies almost seamless.
The debit cards, as Coleman pointed out, are also popular among players. "Over the holidays we turned on the ticketless option so players could decide on their own, whether they wanted tickets or not. And enough of them went ticketless, so that now we're thinking to offer a ticketless option full time."
Jay Peak management is moving into a second phase of development that might include laser tag, miniature golf and a small bowling center. The resort is planning on developing between 12,000 and 18,000 square feet for these new additions.
Phase one, according to Coleman, was a textbook success. "Between the waterpark and FEC, we nailed it," he said.