Gamer's paradise: Arena LAN Center opens with unexpected bang
William Sullivan and David Carter didn’t know how the city would react when they opened their video game center. But after only six months, they already wish they had more space.
William Sullivan and David Carter didn’t just want to own a business. They wanted to own this business.
Walk into Arena LAN Center, at 777 S. Nova Road, and you won’t be greeted by a receptionist. There’s no merchandise or cubicles. There’s really not even any actual work being done — unless you consider winning work.
Sullivan and Carter play games for a living — video games. And after six months of operating their new shop, which hosts individuals and teams for group video game play on nearly 30 computer and consoles, they say business has been booming.
“There’s a huge local community of gamers,” Sullivan said, sitting on a cushy, leather couch, in front of a Harry Potter cardboard cutout. There are three Game Stop stores in Daytona Beach, he added; Blue Dragon Video Games is a few doors down in their complex — as is Cloak and Dagger Comics. “That’s a thriving community, right there.”
After only two weeks of operation, Arena LAN was so busy, Sullivan and Carter had to invest in six more computers — 50% of their original stock. And they credit most of that boom with location, location, location.
Sullivan a Palm Coast resident and Carter from Daytona Beach, the two considered the whole state before opening. But Ormond was centralized, closer for all those gamers an hour or two away from bigger cities, like Orlando or Jacksonville. And plus, they got to set up right next to a video game shop and a comic book store. How is cool that?
“You already had two mom-and-pop, sort of geek-oriented places. It was a natural thing,” Sullivan said. “It’s basically an ecosystem. We share a lot of the same customers.”
Another contributor to their confidence in this business model was the growth of video games being played as sport nationally.
“We’re at the dawn of E-sports,” Sullivan said, citing how a game called “League of Legends” has been recognized as a sport by the federal government, meaning that foreigners can now get visas into the country to play the game on teams. Another game, “Defense of the Ancients,” recently had a tournament held at the Staples Center, in Los Angeles, which sold out and offered a $1 million prize pot.
Sullivan and Carter met last April at a comic book shop — Carter remembers the date exactly — and, within months, they were already discussing their new venture. When Black Friday came around, though, they knew it was time to stop talking and act.
“There was a lot of serendipity,” Sullivan said — like the unit they wanted becoming available just exactly when they wanted it. “It just all came together at the perfect time.”
For Carter’s “real” job, he works in health care admissions. Sullivan runs a graphic design/multimedia-production firm where, he says, he’s like “a one-man Don Draper (without the misogyny)."
But Arena LAN is where they want to grow roots. And with already wishing they had more space to work with, they feel they’re on the right track.
“I think video games are really misunderstood by people who don’t play them,” Sullivan added. It’s not just guys age 18-24 playing them predominantly; the demographic is more in the early 30s, he said, and almost as many women play as men (he cites a 54% to 46% ratio).
Point is, video games aren’t just for antisocial nerds. In fact, Sullivan and Carter see them as extremely social. You can play at home, but Arena LAN offers a new experience — “It’s the difference between drinking at home compared to drinking at a bar.”
“Gamers prefer to be able to be social with their friends,” Sullivan said. “There’s a reason game systems have multiple controller ports. … Gaming’s more fun when you’re doing it with other people. It just is.”
Cal 872-3671, or search Arena LAN Center on Facebook.
Arena LAN Center rents playing time to gamers for $2 per hour or $14 for a day of unlimited play. Unlimited weekly and monthly rates are also available, working out to $7 per day and $5 per day, respectively.
The center is open 2 p.m. to 3 a.m. Tuesday through Thursday, 2 p.m. to 5 a.m. Friday and Saturday, and 6 p.m to 3 a.m. Sunday.