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Long-awaited family entertainment center to revive Fresno retail space

Long-awaited family entertainment center to revive Fresno retail space

 


Located at 7057 N. Marks Ave. in Fresno, Syctron will offer everything from zip lines to waterfalls for guests of all ages. Photo by Ben Hensley

published on February 12, 2024 – 2:48 p.m.
Written by Ben Hensley

After years of preparation, planning, paperwork, permitting and, of course, extensive rebuilding, the former Longs Drugs, located on the corner of Herndon and Marks avenues in Fresno, will once again open its doors to families from the whole valley.

However, guests passing through the sliding glass doors will encounter a very different type of family outing.

Syctron Freeplay Arena, a 27,000-square-foot family entertainment center, hopes to open early this year, bringing a huge play area for kids and adults to northwest Fresno.

bounce back, settle down

Aaron Tucker, chief marketing officer and co-owner of Syctron, had been in the family entertainment business for more than a decade, particularly in trampoline parks. Tucker attended Clovis High School before leaving for Brigham Young University in Utah and eventually opened the first trampoline park in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

After overseeing various parks and entertainment centers throughout the Southeast, Tucker returned to the Valley.

Tucker and his partners focus on family-owned organizations and businesses and have always placed a high value on curating positive experiences. Tucker also founded Forward Family Services, a nonprofit focused on accessible behavioral health services in 2020.

Also that year, he began meeting with his partners, CEO John King, COO Ash King, and Legal Director Jake Skousen to plan their next family entertainment center project.

Tucker and his partners didn't have to look far to find property. At 7057 N. Marks Ave., the former Longs Drugs had plenty of space, conveniently located between Highways 99 and 41. A five-minute drive to 99 and a 20-minute drive to Madera is something Tucker and its partners found it particularly attractive about the location. .

There were a few other options, but ultimately this one was the right size and location for our first try, Tucker said. We can go bigger, we got bigger but for our first try [in Fresno] we thought it was the right size to start this concept.

A year ago, when the Business Journal first spoke with Tucker about the center then called Free Play Arena, the project was in full swing. But with a facility of this magnitude in California, many forms and operational documents had to be processed by the city.

Last time we spoke, we had plans and a business model set up for this and it was all underway, Tucker said. Now the actual construction is almost complete and it's mostly just small city-level fancy items and permit type stuff.

A different type of entertainment center

Syctron aims to be a one-of-a-kind entertainment center, catering to all age groups. Tucker and his partners hope to take their experience managing various entertainment and service spaces throughout their careers and use it to create a convenient and unique experience.

We kind of traveled all over the country running multi-unit operations, King said. Eventually, we all found our way and decided to come together to realize our own vision, our own project.

Syctron will feature the valley's first “spider tunnel,” a series of intertwined ropes leading upward for guests to climb, descend and explore. Contributed photo

King worked in food and beverage and health and recreation at the YMCA before moving into the trampoline park industry with CircusTrix, now renamed Sky Zone. Visalia has a Sky Zone location.

Tucker and King have extensive experience in the family entertainment industry, possessing the knowledge and know-how to see what works and what doesn't in various entertainment centers, they said.

We have a smaller lobby; “We have a smaller back space for the cafe seating because when people come in, we want them to be blown away by the size of the attraction,” King said. When you look at similar concepts, there are other indoor play structures, but they are geared toward small children. It's a very small footprint; ours is sized so that all members of the family can participate.

A rendering of Syctron's entertainment area, including slides, ascending rope tubes, ball pits and more. Contributed photo

Approximately 85% of Syctrons attractions will be sized to be fully accessible to adults.

Another unique feature is that the structure itself is linked to different attractions, he said. You can see ninja obstacle type equipment and obstacles; then you get points that attach to a stunt drop or various slides in the park.

Tucker said Syctron will also introduce a new type of obstacle to Fresno: the spider tunnel. It is a series of cone-shaped intertwined rope webs that gradually climb from one level to the next for children and adults to explore.

It's a massive, integrated and completely unique play structure with a very unique aesthetic, Tucker said. Some things you've seen elsewhere, but the way they come together in this one, the size and color and layout of it all, people are going to walk in, and we're pretty happy they're going to be blown away.

The center also features several slides and waterfalls ranging from 6 to 8 feet, observation ladders, a circular zip line and a ballroom, which will be filled with inflatable balls for guests to climb.

What else to expect

Not only will Syctron include a play area taking up most of the building's 27,000 square feet of space, but the center will also include a cafe, an arcade and eventually party rooms that can accommodate birthday parties and other special events.

We will open with a cafe that will expand, King said, adding that the restaurant will launch with light equipment and will eventually include sandwiches, pizza, salads and desserts.

Syctron will also include an arcade area, as well as a cafe for customers to enjoy. Contributed photo

The soft serve ice cream machine will debut with Flavor Burst ice cream, which, similar to a Coca-Cola Freestyle machine, allows customers to customize their ice cream with different flavors.

Syctrons Arcade will offer around fifteen games under another game structure.

Once open, the Syctrons Playground will be able to accommodate approximately 200 guests, with a building capacity of approximately 400 people including the cafe, party rooms, arcade area and attractions.

Initially, Syctron will launch with 90-minute passes at $27.99 for general admission and $21.99 for children ages three to six.

Additionally, Syctron will offer all-day passes starting at $35.99 for adults and $28.99 for children ages three to six.

However, next June, Tucker said he hopes to launch a membership program that will rival the price of daily passes, hoping to attract loyal customers to the entertainment center.

People will find that memberships definitely offer the best value, Tucker said.

Once open, visitors will be able to purchase 90-minute passes and full-day passes. Later this year, the entertainment center will offer annual passes, allowing guests to save money on repeat visits. Contributed photo

Syctron will hire between 30 and 40 employees, ranging from security monitors and cleaning crews to front desk operators and cafe staff, in addition to managers to manage operations.

Hiring will be announced about two weeks before opening, which Tucker hopes will happen no later than spring break.

Ash and I have already opened new locations, as have our other partners Jake and John, Tucker said. We expect that there will probably be some demand right off the bat and a lot of people want to try it, which of course we love.

Although an official grand opening date has not yet been announced, Tucker said the target date for the center would be no later than spring break 2024, which this year falls at the end of March.

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