ONTARIO, CA -- Canada's Big Al's has opened a new amusement location in Ontario, CA, taking over 46,000 square feet of space previously occupied by a Best Buy store. The fourth location in the Big Al's chain, which was founded in 2006 in Vancouver, the new venue in the Ontario Center is scaled down version from the firm's other locations, which average 70,000 square feet.
"Our vision of growth can be more readily realized with a smaller model," said Daniel Kirkwood, president chief executive of Kirkwood & Kirkwood, the real estate firm that owns and operates Big Al's. "More important to developers and landlords, we took a plain vanilla Best Buy box, and turned it into something spectacular."
K&K's strategy was to creatively repurpose big box stores, closing in greater numbers, tuning them into to destinations for communities. This repurposing of existing space not only provides a desirable location, but is less expansive than a new purpose-built structure. Time is also saved. The Ontario, CA, venue was complete in six months, compared with a year needed to construct a new building.
The approach, however, was not without its challenges. "We had to completely re-design our Big Al's footprint to get it to work. We had to shake up what we do," said Big Al's Todd Moore. "We had to shrink our sports bar by about 20%, but it still has 95% of capacity of the original sites. And we went from 42 bowling lanes down to 20, understanding supply and demand."
Moore explained that the shrinkage is viable, as long as the company retains the type of attractions and amenities that remain core to its business plan. The plan, he said, was to retain the upscale sports bar and bowling space, while maintaining the family-friendly atmosphere. "It's important to tap into consumer dollars at various points in the evening," he said. "So we need a diverse set of amenities everybody can enjoy."
The slimmer Big Al's still needed to attract the families and millennials. While the company significantly decreased the number of bowling lanes in the new venue, its also created the Board Room. This separate space includes classic videogames, ping pong, pool tables, coin-op basketball, shuffleboard alleys and dartboards, as well as an oversized Jenga game. There are also two large projection screens and a host of monitors placed around the room.
Whether the new location in Ontario will become a standard model for Big Al's is yet to be seen. However, it could likely become one of the options for the company, which also has locations in Beaverton, OR, and Meridian, ID. "If a preexisting building become available, we'd absolutely look at it," Moore said. "We had a lot of interest in Big Al's expansion before, and now it's wonderfully crazy. We're getting one to two calls a day about space."