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The Clubhouse's 'wow' factor
Complex aims for unique experience in area
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The Clubhouse employee Conrad Harrell loads gift cards for VIPs as the new family entertainment center opened Friday. - photo by SCOTT BRYANT/staff

      When The Clubhouse opened last week, guests were immediately wowed by the scope and breadth of the family entertainment center. That is exactly what Darin Van Tassell and his ownership group had hoped for.
       "When we decided to develop The Clubhouse, we hired the best consultants we could find," Van Tassell said. "From the designers of the space, to amusement, bowling, and food consultants, we wanted make sure all aspects of the project were as good as they could possibly be, and be appropriate for our market."
       One of the firms that Van Tassell hired was Dynamic Designs and Associates, Inc. The firm's vice president Doug Wilkerson has designed amusement space all over the world taking his inspiration from Walt Disney.
       "You have eight seconds to set the tone," Wilkerson said. "In that amount of time, when a guest first walks in, you have to hear ‘wow, this is awesome!'"
       After that point, Wilkerson said he wants to control the flow of the guests.
       "For instance, here at The Clubhouse, you are guided directly to customer service, and on your way you see the restaurant, concessions, and arcade games," he said. "In the background is laser tag and bowling. You immediately have a sense of what is available for you."
       The inspiration for The Clubhouse was an old ballpark from the 1940's, and that theme is evident throughout the building.
       "Darin is into baseball, and he wanted it to feel like an older stadium, so we incorporated red brick and wrought iron into the design," he said. "This project is very unique, and it doesn't have a cookie cutter type feel to it at all. I think people will thoroughly enjoy what has been created here."
       Lorraine Platman is serving as one of the food consultants. She is the founder of Sweet Lorraine's restaurant which has been designated one of Michigan's Top Ten Favorite Restaurants in the Zagat Guide for Michigan. Platman and her partners designed the menu and trained the restaurant/concession staff.
       "I guess the biggest surprise of the whole entire project has been the restaurant," Van Tassell said. "Initially, we envisioned a snack bar kind type of restaurant, and ended up going with a 160-seat, full-service restaurant called Spikes Sports Grill in addition to the Bullpen snack bar. The food is so good that the restaurant and concessions area could really stand on their own."
       Van Tassell said he wanted the food to be on level with the food that is served in large ballparks and stadiums around the country.
       "I had to remind myself that now concessions in these parks can be very good and very high end," he said. "I think people will genuinely be surprised at just how good the basic things that we serve like hamburgers and hot dogs are. The higher end items are phenomenal as well. The development of this aspect of The Clubhouse has been a pleasant surprise to say the least."
      Frank Seninsky, president and CEO of Amusement Entertainment Management, LLC, has been a consultant for The Clubhouse ownership group since the initial development phases of the project began four years ago.
       "I don't know that folks in this area realize just how unique this project really is," he said. "On average, I will consult on 20 projects a year or so that are going into construction, and this is across the country. I can say that I am not aware any other bowling anchored family entertainment center that does not serve alcohol."
       Seninsky said some potential customers might view that as a negative, but he feels it is the appropriate approach for this market. "This really is a venue designed for families, and I believe that people are going to have so much fun that the lack of alcohol will not be a factor. I don't know that I could make that statement in other parts of the country, but I feel ultimately, it will not impact the success of The Clubhouse."
       The Clubhouse is located adjacent to the Hackers Golf Park near the intersection of the Veterans Parkway (Statesboro Bypass) and Old Register Road. The owners have created a seamless transition between the golf park and the amusement center.
       With the addition of The Clubhouse, Hackers will have four separate entertainment areas covering 30 acres. Van Tassell said there are additional plans in the works.
       "We had a vision for what this complex could become when we started," he said. "We hope to add another feature in two to three years. We are looking at a couple of things, but most likely it will be an electric go-cart track. If the carts are electric, then you don't have the noise or the emissions. Golf and noise just don't go together."