FREEHOLD, NJ – It happens every Friday night around 8 o’clock. The street lights and store lights on iPlay America’s “city square” start to flicker before going completely dark while realistic sounds of a power grid failing fill the air. Suddenly some Intimidator Beam LED 350 fixtures from CHAUVET DJ begin to strobe; then as the music in the background gets louder, more Intimidator fixtures kick in, flooding the downtown of New Jersey’s “premier theme park” with eye-popping colors that kick off four nonstop goodtime hours of dancing, mingling, playing games and cosmic bowling.
Welcome to iPlay America! This sprawling indoor theme park, about 45 miles outside of New York City, offers something for kids of all ages — from a cocktail lounge and concert venue, to kids’ zones and rides of every description. The park has become wildly popular in its market, in part because it strives to add an extra twist to all of its various activities that pump up the fun.
The Friday night “After Dark” event is but one example. “Our owners Gary Foley and Bob McDaid wanted to create an entirely new environment that stood out from standard cosmic bowling,” said Daniel Blackmore, the Technical Director at iPlay America. “We want to blow the old style entertainment concepts out of the water and create a vibe that gets guests excited.”
Creating this level of excitement at an indoor theme park that doesn’t have the scenic elements of its larger outdoor counterparts can present a challenge, said Blackmore. This challenge is made even more difficult by the fact that an indoor park’s budget is much tighter than that of a bigger outdoor facility. Well-placed lights with rapid movements, sharp beams, attractive prisms and inviting gobos can be used to create an environment that’s every bit as fun for guests as a big outdoor park’s.
A quick visit to iPlay America on a Friday night should be enough to convince anyone of this point. “We use lights to create an atmosphere that transports guests,” said Blackmore. “Once the lightshow starts and the music is turned up, guests lose themselves. They could be anywhere having fun.
“Our Friday night After Dark is a good example of this,” he continued. “Basically, it’s a huge dance party that sweeps up the crowd and immerses it in an intense sound and light experience. We accomplish this by turning up the music with extra subwoofers and speakers and covering every square inch of the theme park with colorful lighting. We have a mix of effects that set the tone, but our CHAUVET DJ Intimidators lead the way; they are the clear leaders when it comes to building intensity and throwing vibrant color splashes throughout the facility.”
A variety of Intimidator Beam 350 LEDs and Intimidator FX 350 moving heads are installed throughout iPlay America, attached directly to the ceiling trussing. The majority of these fixtures are used for the iPlay After Dark events.
“During After Dark we like to spin through a lot of the fun gobos preinstalled on the Intimidator Beam LED 350 to really make the buildings in our City Square party area stand out as part of the show,” said Blackmore. “Also, when the intense beams from the Intimidators sweep across the floor with spinning gobos, it always makes the younger kids go nuts trying to chase them down; so it’s a lot of fun.”
Although they are essential to the After Dark fun, the Intimidator fixtures are also used in many other ways at iPlay America. “CHAUVET DJ gear is located throughout the building,” said Blackmore. “During our in-park concerts we use them as front wash and upstage lighting. We also use them to light various features of the park. Our lighting designer Ted Blackmore is always finding new ways to use the lights to create a special atmosphere.”
The gobo features and prisms of the Intimidator Beam LED 350 were big factors that led iPlay America to choose them, according to Blackmore. “They’re very flexible fixtures, so we can always come up with new looks to keep things fresh and interesting,” he said. “The 350s have such a fluid motion and can shoot from one end of the building to the other in a matter of seconds, giving the theme park depth and some really stunning eye candy.”
Blackmore first saw the Intimidator Beam LED 350 at a fashion show held at iPlay America’s event center. The fixtures, which were brought in by the lighting designer for the show, impressed him with their “brightness and clarity.” He then contacted his supplier K Sound LLC to purchase the fixtures for the indoor theme park.
“Mike Kurczeski at K Sound was very helpful in getting us started,” he said. “K Sound mapped out the position of all the fixtures, and our electrical company was able to complete the installation in a couple of days. It was a very smooth and easy process – but it made a huge difference in the guest experience at iPlay America. We’re a unique destination, so we expect any lighting we use to contribute to the fun.”