Jared Vasold saw many facilities that described themselves as “family friendly” during his travels around North America. Yet in reality, their message did not jive with their attractions.
“Nothing against violent video games—there’s a time and place for everything,” the 31-year-old explains, “but you say you’re focused on kids and don’t monitor what they’re exposed to?”
Vasold knew he could be different.
He left his job in motivational leadership development and began the process to open his own family entertainment center (FEC). Looking for new attractions led him to Greg Gallavan, owner of Amaze’n Mazes, a maze designer and operator. Gallavan was also working on a new facility, so the pair decided to talk in more detail about a possible joint business venture.
“During our initial meeting, we found that we were both Christians and really valued hard work and action-oriented family fun,” Vasold says. “Given our similar interests and entrepreneurial spirit, we were destined to collaborate.”
As a result of this strong connection, they opened two FECs: the 40,000-square-foot outdoor Miner’s Maze Adventureland in Golden, Colorado, in 2010, and the indoor Buckaroos in Lakewood, Colorado, in 2011.
Miner’s Maze Adventureland, in particular, highlights the “action” aspect the pair wanted to bring to audiences. For example, the FEC’s namesake attraction has already brought in more than 35,000 maze runners this year. Its success stems from a few wrinkles you will not see in typical mazes, Vasold says. First, guests must find checkpoints before exiting the maze; second, the placement of squirt guns and hidden fill stations throughout the attraction allows players to have impromptu water fights.
How has your background in leadership development helped with the FEC business?
As a result of facilitating leadership training in more than 100 venues across North America, I have been blessed with the opportunity to learn and share experiences with thousands of different people. Developing these relationships with people from all walks of life helped mold me into an individual who strives to understand and appreciate a wide range of perspectives and expectations. Additionally, staff development and group team building have been another outlet where my expertise has helped maximize the fun experience. The FEC is the perfect place for groups to come together and have fun while building team communication, productivity, and functionality. When guests call and ask me to customize a team-building workshop to fit their specific needs, I am able to design an interactive workshop that intentionally enhances group and individual performance.
Why was being truly family friendly so important to you?
We believe character is vital for business today, therefore we strive to consistently be an organization where our words and actions align. We believe action-oriented fun is a great way to stretch and encourage guests to step out of their comfort zones and take on new adventures in life. We believe friends and families should spend time together creating smiles and making memories.
How do you decide on the attractions to add to your facility?
When choosing a new attraction, we balance the decision on multiple factors: 1. Ask, listen, and learn from guest feedback and pick something they want to do. 2. Consider cost, throughput capacity, and demographic attractiveness/balance. 3. Consider how the attraction blends with our lineup of active-oriented fun. 4. Assess the allure, uniqueness, challenge, and potential for popularity.
How often do you change the maze around?
The awesome thing about a maze from Amaze’n Mazes is that you can change one panel in a couple minutes and completely rearrange the entire maze flow. Typically, we change the maze every month to help keep our repeat maze runners guessing. People enjoy new challenges, so we like to keep things fresh.
What is the longest and shortest amount of time it has taken someone to complete the maze?
One person took an hour and 34 minutes. Another person only needed 2 minutes and 3 seconds. The average time is 15 minutes. If guests get out in less than 10 minutes, they can win an iPod. We have daily maze tournaments, giving out T-shirts and other prizes.
What’s the trick to getting out of a tough maze?
While I don’t want to give away all my tricks, you might catch me dropping some directional markers, observing others’ mistakes so I don’t have to make them, or scouting out a route from our scenic overlook before getting started.
Contact Contributing Editor Mike Bederka at mbederka@IAAPA.org.
The Maze Master
Over the past 20-plus years, Greg Gallavan has built and sold more than 55 mazes around the world. That is a lot of people getting lost.
The owner of Winter Park, Colorado-based Amaze’n Mazes shared a few quick thoughts with Funworld before jetting off to Australia to build a new maze.
What do you love most about mazes?
They’re just so much fun. I love hearing people laugh and seeing all the feet running around underneath.
Why are mazes popular?
Parents want something their kids can do, and it doesn’t involve them staring at a video screen; it’s a live game. Plus, the whole family can do it, and it’s inexpensive.
How have mazes changed over the years?
The checkpoints separated us and made us successful. A lot of people thought they could just open a maze and let people wander around and get lost. That works a little bit, but kids aren’t just interested in walking around aimlessly. So putting a game in there where they can win prizes—that causes excitement.