For perpetually broke students who claim to have a demanding workload of exams, the common trend is to spend Friday and Saturday nights in a dark, obnoxiously loud bar slinging back shots until something interesting happens. The Rec Room, an entertainment juggernaut owned by Cineplex, will help diversify London's weekend options for students by bringing virtual reality, live-action Mario Kart and axe throwing to CF Masonville Place.
The 35,000-square-foot millennial playground, which is set to open late April, will combine a state of the art dining experience, a venue for live entertainment and a plethora of arcade and physical gaming options.
“The idea is to have something different going on all the time, not just getting pigeonholed into live music,” says Sarah Van Lange, director of communications at Cineplex. "I think that’s part of what makes it fun too; you’ll be able to see a variety of things going on here.”
While The Rec Room runs four other locations across Canada, the London location will be the first of its kind in Southwestern Ontario.
From the outside, The Rec Room is an elegant, upscale building that doesn't look like your typical arcade centre at first site. Walk in and your eyes will light up to the assortment of goofy games combined with sophisticated wood fixtures. By playing Skee-Ball, customers can feel a sense of nostalgia that brings them back to their youth, often spent hopped up on sugar and raging with tickets at Chuck E. Cheese's. The location has been completely reconstructed from what was previously a Target, which closed in 2015.
Once students are done gaming, they can head over to Three10 or The Shed, two restaurants within the venue that serve everything from wood-oven pizzas to customizable donuts to local craft beer.
David Terry, vice-president of The Rec Room, estimates that a typical night at the location would cost students anywhere from $10 to $40 depending on how much they want to game.
“There are lots of different levels of spending on the menu and lots of shareable items," says Terry. “I think students will appreciate the fact that they can come in and do a variety of things and not have a very expensive experience.”
After a night of gaming, students can head over to the trophy case were they can redeem prizes. It’s more of a shopping experience compared to the pegged wall of dingy prizes that most arcades offer; The Rec Room has a wide variety of options, ranging anywhere from Ring Pops to drones.
With the growing trend of online shopping and power centres, Masonville is pushing to entertain their customers with more fruitful options.
According to Tom Cooper, associate professor of strategic management at Memorial University of Newfoundland, malls need to reinvent themselves so that they are relevant in today's society, and by introducing The Rec Room, he believes Masonville Place will gain more foot traffic. He foresees malls going down an experience-based route as opposed to the traditional, product-based system that currently drives most large malls.
“I think strategically, we have to look at malls being as much about the experience and getting people in the door, not just a place where you can pick up a shirt but having the experience of going there and reliving some past memories, having some great meals,” says Cooper.
Western University fourth-year management and organizational studies student, Zeeshan Ahmed, has checked out the Toronto location with friends and enjoys the overabundance of options The Rec Room provides. He says he'd prefer an experience-oriented arcade as opposed to a night of binge-drinking on Richmond Row.
Even though Ahmed knows the entertainment-eatery can be on the more expensive side, he’s excited to check out the virtual reality, since there really isn’t any other place to experience such cutting-edge technology.
So next time you decide to go out drinking, consider doing it at The Rec Room, where you can ride Formula One race cars, fight zombies and throw axes all in one night.