A longtime void in Sierra Vista Mall in Clovis is on the verge of becoming a family-fun destination.
No Surrender Laser Tag plans to move from northwest Fresno to the old Gottschalks store, which has been vacant more than six years. The proposal moves Sierra Vista Mall another step toward becoming a more diversified and recreation-oriented center.
The project will cover about 34,000 square feet in the old 100,000-square-foot store, more than half of which is now occupied by MB2 Raceway. No Surrender will move from its current site on Blackstone and Barstow avenues next spring, said owner Peter Chang.
The new site will allow No Surrender to expand its laser tag field by more than 50 percent, add a jungle gym for younger children, an arcade, virtual reality area, party rooms and restaurant/dining service.
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The idea, Chang said, is to have a place with attractions for young children to adults. As one parent shops, the other parent and children can stop by to eat or play, he said.
The main attraction will be the 10,000-square-foot, two-story laser tag playing field that can accommodate up to 50 players. The Blackstone Avenue site covers about 6,000 square feet with capacity for 24 players, Chang said.
The current site will remain open as the transition is made to the Clovis site, which is targeted for a May opening date, but will eventually close, Chang said.
“My goal is to get kids, parents, teens and college students,” he said. “The laser tag itself will emphasize teamwork; our games are more mission-based so people get to socialize and work together as one.”
The jungle gym, divided into areas for younger and older children, will cover 7,500 square feet with bridges, slides, obstacle courses and 18 Nerf cannons, he said. Another 2,900 square feet is for the gaming arcade, Chang said. The dining area, virtual reality machines and party rooms will take up much of the remaining space.
My goal is to get kids, parents, teens and college students.
Peter Chang, owner of No Surrender Laser Tag
The jungle gym is designed by a company in Taiwan and will attract the youngest visitors and their parents.
“We’re missing a lot of younger ones,” he said, referring to the Blackstone site where No Surrender has operated for four years.
To redesign the Gottschalks interior, which still has a jewelry counter in the center, Chang hired Monster City Studios of Fresno.
Laser tag and virtual reality games is a direction many malls are taking, said James Powell, a member of the executive team for Monster City Studios.
Chang is going to remove the existing ceiling tiles and use the building’s upper ceiling to create two levels in the laser tag maze. Powell said he sees great potential in the redesign.
“I think what he has planned there is amazing,” Powell said. “We’re seeing a lot more of these kinds of places. Laser tag and escape rooms are getting really big.”
In recent conferences of the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions, Powell said, the emphasis has been “super heavy” on virtual reality and laser tag.
The company building the jungle gym also is turning into a major player in the amusement and attractions industry.
“Virtual reality while you’re walking and moving and kids playing on those gigantic jungle gyms is where things are going,” Powell said. “We think Peter has really nailed it.”
To meld the components he wanted for all age groups, Chang needed a larger building, which led him to search for a new site. He began focusing on Sierra Vista Mall in January and closed the deal in September.
We’re seeing a lot more of these kinds of places. Laser tag and escape rooms are getting really big.
James Powell, executive team member, Monster City Studios
Clovis has no similar laser tag facilities. Chang, a Clovis resident, said the city’s growth to the east makes Sierra Vista Mall an optimal location for the city’s growing, younger population.
The project was approved by the Clovis Planning Commission two weeks ago. Chang hasn’t gotten the go-ahead for an alcoholic beverage license, but he is working with the Clovis Police Department to obtain one.
“I want to have a small lounge area like John’s Incredible Pizza or Chuck E. Cheese,” he said. “If parents want a glass of wine or a craft beer, it’s there. If not, it’s no big deal, but it’s something to have.”
Orlando Ramirez, senior planner for the city of Clovis, said the planning commission asked the Clovis Police Department to work with Chang on his beer and wine license, which must be approved by the state. In their initial discussions with the planning department, police officials expressed concerns about an over-concentration of alcoholic beverage licenses in the vicinity of the mall.
Greg Newman, Sierra Vista Mall general manager, said Chang’s project will complement the MB2 Raceway as the mall expands its recreational component.
MB2 Raceway opened in 2014, four years after Gottschalks closed at Sierra Vista. Now, with Chang’s project, the old Gottschalks will be about 92 percent occupied. About 8,200 square feet, which Newman sees as suitable for a restaurant, remain vacant.
“With the addition of MB2, we were looking at uses that will get people out of their houses and have an experience,” he said. “The way the community is, especially with the millennial generation, they are looking for experiences.”
He said the movie theater’s recent remodeling, which includes high-tech, fully reclining seating, has added to the visitor experience. A license for beer and wine is pending with the state Division of Alcoholic Beverage Control.
The mall is much different than a decade ago when it was anchored by Mervyn’s and Gottschalks.
“Shopping centers are always evolving,” Newman said. “It’s a direction our customers are looking for, a central location where they can have all these different choices: dining, shopping, movies or recreation.”