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Erie’s Round 1: Large, Loud, almost ready for business

Posted by Joe Bell on September 4, 2018
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Erie’s Round1: Large, loud, almost ready for business

By Jim Martin

Posted Aug 24, 2018 at 2:19 PM Updated Aug 24, 2018 at 2:31 PM

“There’s nothing like this in Erie,” said Joe Bell, spokesman for the Youngstown-based Cafaro Co. that owns the mall.

The quiet, empty space left by Burlington Coat Factory’s 2012 departure from the Millcreek Mall is empty no more.

Round1 Bowling and Entertainment, a 50,000-square-foot activity center for adults and children — featuring bowling, billiards, arcade games, ping-pong, karaoke, a bar, food and private party rooms — was busy Friday training employees and getting ready to open on Sept. 1.

“There’s nothing like this in Erie,” said Joe Bell, spokesman for the Youngstown-based Cafaro Co. that owns the mall.

A description of the concept fails to capture the experience of the new entertainment center, located at the western end of the mall, where it shares an entrance with Mad Mex Fresh Mexican Grill and Primanti Brothers.

Whatever image comes to mind, Round 1 is most likely bigger, louder and brighter, illuminated by the flashing lights of 250 arcade games, including dozens of crane games that allow users with a little luck and good eye-hand coordination to manipulate the claw to snag stuffed Japanese cartoon characters and other merchandise.

Round1, after all, was founded in Japan in 1980, but has expanded to the United States, where there are now 20 locations.

Taka Mizuno, Round One Entertainment Inc.’s California-based marketing manager, who recently helped open a new location in Sandy, Utah, thinks Erie has everything needed for a successful location, including a strong mall, the right demographics and the sort of weather that might tend to draw people indoors for a good part of the year.

Jake Schnell, general manager of the entertainment center, thinks that will be part of the success, along with the ability to cater to children and adults at the same time.

“In Erie, there is really nothing like this,” he said. “You would have to go to the outskirts of Cleveland, Buffalo or Pittsburgh.”

And he’s already thinking ahead to the benefits of offering a fun place to get away from an Erie winter for a few hours.

“We have a roof over our heads,” he said. “No snow is coming in here.”

There was still work to be done late Friday morning as Mizuno gave tours, showing off the party rooms and the redemption center where game winners can pick out prizes, ranging from small stuffed animals to electric guitars and kid-sized all-terrain-vehicles.

“It’s not just for kids,” Mizuno said, explaining that the entertainment center hopes to capture a couple key demographics, including college students and young people in their 20s and well as young families.

Listen: Pizza bomber podcast coming Aug. 28

After months of work, Round1 is almost ready for Erie.

While hundreds of arcade games flashed and filled the air with a cacophony of noises, some of the center’s 60 employees were practicing their skills at shouting encouragement to nonexistent bowling patrons.

Others, like Ryan Kalie, were looking for surfaces to clean, while painting crews touched up paint.

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Schnell said he wasn’t worried about meeting his deadline.

“I’m excited. We’re going to get there,” he said. “The last week is all magic.”

Jim Martin can be reached at 870-1668 or by email. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/ETNMartin.

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