Scene75 Dayton overcomes tornado, pandemic with expansion, reopening

AT: John W.C. Robinson

DAYTON, Ohio — In 2012, father and son Les and Jonah Sandler took a risk, converting a rental building Les owned into a large entertainment center. Scene75 debuted in Dayton, Ohio, to the joy of the local community. That FEC eventually launched a chain of giant FECs, with Scene75 locations expanding to Cincinnati, Columbus and Cleveland, Ohio, as well as Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. 

Over Memorial Day weekend 2019, the original Scene75 Entertainment Center was struck by the destructive tornados that hit the Dayton-area. The location was left flooded, with only a partial roof, suffering from collapsed walls and severly damaged attractions. After being shuttered for 18 months since the tornados, Scene75 Dayton is ready to reopen its doors and welcome guests. However, there’s a whole new Scene75 inside those doors for visitors to discover.

From the moment Jonah Sandler and his team surveyed the damage, they knew this would not be just a simple rebuild.

“We are beyond excited to be able to reopen our doors to the Dayton community,” said Sandler to the local Dayton Daily News. “While planning our recovery after the tornadoes, we decided that it wasn’t enough to just rebuild; we wanted to make Scene75 Dayton bigger and better.

“We originally had hoped to expand sometime around the fourth quarter of 2019 to first quarter of 2020,” explained Sandler to Amusement Today. “The tornado changed the plan but also in many ways forced our hand into the expansion as the 36-foot-tall wall that separated the proposed addition from the original floorplan was destroyed in the storm.”

As Sandler and his team worked to rebuild the location, with plans to reopen in late-Spring 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic struck causing a nationwide shutdown of virtually everything. It not only closed the other Scene75 locations but delayed the reopening of the Dayton location.

“While there was some activity in our [Dayton] building for most of the shutdown, COVID certainly slowed us down,” said Sandler, as the company attempted to press on with the rebuild and expansion durig the government imposed shutdown. “We had difficulty getting all of our vendors on site and also difficulty with insurance payouts.  It has been an extremely long process and rebuild.”

As the shutdown ended, Scene75 began reopening its FECs in other areas. Sandler’s team assembeled what many considered the gold standard for FEC operation under the pandemic’s restrictions with their Stay Safe Together Playbook. However, while Cincinnati, Cleveland and other locations welcomed guests once again, Dayton still remained shuttered. 

Within its walls, something new was taking shape. The center expanded its entertainment offerings with an additional 40,000 square feet, bringing the venue to a total of 164,000 square feet in size. It added new attractions, including a Moser Drop Tower, a rebuilt blacklight minigolf, an exciting new 18-hole minigolf course dubbed Sunset Golf and a 300-seat banquet center.

“As we expanded our size in Dayton, we looked to our other locations for inspiration,” said Sandler. “[After our success with a similar room in Columbus] We felt it critical to add a large banquet center.  Scene75 Dayton 2.0 will allow for up to 300 guests to sit within the same room [as restrictions ease] inside a beautiful space capable of hosting a casual gathering to more formal (yet fun) wedding ceremonies.

“Sunset Golf is Scene75’s first non-blacklight miniature golf course. Its landscape and water features add beauty outside the windows of our new banquet center.”

Two highlights of the expansion are a roller coaster and carousel contained within the giant FEC. Thrillseekers and families will delight together aboard the Tusnami roller coaster, a Visa Spinning Coaster 5.0 model. For those seeking more relaxed fun, a Chance Rides double-decker carousel anchors the new expansion. Both attractions were supplied to Scene75 Dayton in deals brokered by Rides 4 U of Somerville, New Jersey.

“I am most excited to see families enjoy our two story carrousel,” offered Sandler. “My grandmother, who I was very close to, passed away in May. I was unable to spend time with her prior to her passing due to COVID restrictions.  To honor her memory, I named the carrousel ‘The Adeline,’ a nod to her name, Adele.  She would be so proud to see families enjoy the attraction.”

With guests being welcomed back, finally, to Scene75’s Dayton location at the end of November, the local community is chomping at the bit to enjoy the facilty once again.

“We have had incredible traction thus far on social media, with some of our live video tours [of the newly updated facility] exceeding 100,000 views,” said Sandler.

“Our community is excited. While we have reopened four locations from COVID-19 shutdowns over the last six months, this is our first true opening of a ‘new’ center,” added Sandler.  “We imagine we will need to be very diligent at the doors to ensure the proper flow of traffic into the venue.  Up until this point with the reopenings, guest traffic has been limited more so by people’s desire to visit than the actual capacity requirements.  We envision the reopening of Dayton will see the opposite effect.”

This article appears in the 
of Amusement Today.
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