IRVINE, Calif. – By the end of this year, SpeedZone will have 10 new attractions, including a brand new roller coaster, rock wall and ferris wheel.
Boomers in Irvine have added an upgrade called Boomer’s Backyard, which allows visitors to eat and drink under Edison lights and watch sporting events on big screen televisions next to an outdoor fireplace.
What you need to know
- New owner group APX has big plans for SpeedZone in Los Angeles and Boomers in Irvine
- SpeedZone LA will have 10 new attractions by the end of this year. The Boomers Irvine have already received a new upgrade called Boomer’s Backyard
- APX acquired SpeedZone, Boomers Irvine and eight other family entertainment centers from APEX Parks Groups after they filed for bankruptcy at the height of the pandemic last summer
- Tim Murphy, CEO of Boomer’s Park, wants SpeedZone, Boomers Irvine, and the rest of their FEC portfolio to be America’s FEC brand
And the bathrooms. SpeedZone and Boomer have or are in the process of getting modernized and redesigned bathrooms.
“This is number 1 for me,” said Tim Murphy, director of Boomer’s Park. No pun intended.
“Whether you are in a restaurant or a FEC (Family Entertainment Center), usually mothers are the ones who check these things out and when it is not in good condition they think the rest of your house is filthy,” Murphy told Spectrum News.
Under a different group of owners and taking advantage of the closings caused by the pandemic, new owner APX was busy modernizing and remodeling the newly acquired amusement parks in Southern California as part of a major capital redevelopment plan.
APX, a subsidiary of private equity firm Cerberus Capital Management LP, took over the Irvine-based Apex Parks Group’s family entertainment centers after they went bankrupt during the pandemic last summer.
Theme parks and their usually smaller family entertainment centers struggled amid the pandemic. The state closed theme parks and indoor amusement parks to help slow the spread of the coronavirus.
FECs are the backbone of the theme park and amusement park industry and are classified as mini amusement parks and indoor entertainment centers. Chuck E Cheese, John’s Incredible Pizza, Dave & Buster’s, Castle Park Miniature Golf, and TwoBit Circus in Los Angeles are all considered FECs.
According to the Orlando-based International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions, in the most available report in 2018, more than 280,000 FECs visit annually. Families with young children are usually the target group.
Amid increasing competition, the pandemic has fueled Apex’s financial troubles that they have had for years, the Wall Street Journal reported. According to the Wall Street Journal, APX acquired 10 of Apex’s family entertainment centers, including Boomers in Irvine, SpeedZone in Los Angeles, and other parks in Florida and New Jersey, for $ 45 million. Another company owns a boomer in Fountain Valley and Upland.
Murphy, who has over three decades of entertainment and hospitality experience, was brought in to help improve the local centers.
“The previous company didn’t take care of these parks,” Murphy said. “We have to go back and really keep and improve safety. Part of that was normal wear and tear, but we had to take care of it. There was broken concrete. We fix things and make sure there are no chipped paint. We’re in, everyone do these things and make sure everything works. “
What Would Disney Do?
One thing Murphy always asks his team is, “What would Disney do?”
Murphy doesn’t just want the SpeedZone, Boomers Irvine, and the other family entertainment centers in the APX portfolio to look pretty. He wants to revamp the business and change the experience for customers.
Unlike the large theme parks that draw guests locally, nationally, and internationally, an FEC’s customers are mostly locals who live within a 15 to 20 mile radius.
Murphy said he wants to offer his customers a theme park-like service experience, but on a smaller scale.
“All of these things that the smaller FECs will never do, we’re starting to do: great employee training, customer service training, great experience,” said Murphy. “It’s these little things that you do. Now we have to fix these parks to get them to this point, but once you get there you want to capture and keep the customers.”
The goal, Murphy said, is to create a place where customers, especially locals, are comfortable. They want SpeedZone and Boomers Irvine to be the locals’ backyard parks.
Due to his restaurant experience, he plans to revise the menu and make suggestions for a specific meal to customers and combine it with wine or other alcoholic beverages. Irvine boomers expect to receive a full liquor license in the next few weeks. SpeedZone already has one.
“We always drank beer and wine and they did well,” he said. “But those are other things people want when they hang out.”
Additional features in the pipeline for SpeedZone and Boomers Irvine include a membership and loyalty program. They also want to serve businesses as well as the large Latinx community in Southern California.
This month, Murphy said, another change at SpeedZone and Boomers is the dominant color of amusement parks – no longer yellow and orange. The company will introduce new red, white and blue signage and colors.
“We want to be known as America’s FECs,” Murphy said.
Starting in June, SpeedZone will add more attractions, including a rock wall, laser tag, and ferris wheel with views of the San Gabriel Mountains. Upgrades are also planned in Boomer’s Irvines plans starting in the third or fourth quarter of this year.
Murphy declined to disclose the cost of APX’s capital improvement program to upgrade the centers, but it is sizeable since it spans the entire portfolio.
However, you expect the upgrades to pay off in the long run.
“We want to encourage customers to have a great time and make sure they come back,” he said. “We want to give them a theme park-like experience, but it’s not $ 100 a day.”