The coronavirus pandemic and ongoing shutdowns have forced a longtime laser tag attraction in San Diego’s Midway District to call it quits.
ULTRAZONE – which ran for 25 years at 3146 Sports Arena Blvd. – posted the unfortunate news of its permanent closure on its website over the weekend.
The laser tag hub – considered a family entertainment center-type business – had been temporarily closed since mid-March, when the pandemic reached San Diego County and the first wave of business shutdowns swept the region. At that point, there was no timeline for when it might reopen.
“Almost 7 months later the situation remains completely unchanged,” ULTRAZONE wrote in its farewell message on its website. “Laser tag is still not even remotely close to being permitted to reopen.”
Even once family fun centers are cleared to reopen in San Diego County, ULTRAZONE said it won’t be the same.
And, so – at least for this local business – it’s best to just say game over.
“The painful and sad reality we face is that even at some mythical reopening in 2021 or later, State of California COVID-19 guidelines specific for laser tag would make it impossible for us to continue to provide the thrilling ULTRAZONE experience you’ve come to love,” the business wrote on its website.
“Remember: the packed Lobby; the Briefing Room, sitting shoulder-to-shoulder with eager friends, new and old; the Vesting Room loaded with excitement; the Arena filled with dozens of laughing, screaming players; the Party Area teeming with birthday guests?” the note continued. “Rather than dishonor the amazing legacy of The ZONE, after 25 wondrous years it is time to say farewell.”
ULTRAZONE first came onto San Diego’s recreation scene in 1995 – a world before social media – and a time when laser tag was all the rage. As kids suited up and immersed themselves in the thrilling game of laser tag with friends and strangers, the attraction’s slogan was “Play the Game That Will Change Your Life.”
According to ULTRAZONE, over its 25 years in business, “The Zone” has hosted 4.5 million players. Up to 36 players could join a single game so, as one can imagine, social distance is not really a thing inside the attraction’s multi-level arena.
In that time, ULTRAZONE said more than 30,000 birthday parties have been celebrated there and the attraction has hosted more than 80,000 YMCA summer campers.
So, many San Diegans have made memories there.
This includes Ashley Grau, a mom of three who remembers her husband taking her there on their first date 23 years ago.
“We have visited in more recent years on dates and I loved seeing the teenagers and families enjoying their time making memories together,” Grau said. “I felt like a kid again whenever I visited. I will miss driving by on Rosecrans and my husband and I squeezing hands and smiling because of the memories we shared there.”
If you’re feeling nostalgic, ULTRAZONE has been sharing some of its favorite photos and memories from its run on its website. You can see the posts here.
NBC 7 has left a message with ULTRAZONE to gather more details on the closure.
ULTRAZONE isn’t the only family entertainment center-type business that remains shuttered 6+ months into the pandemic in San Diego County.
As of Sept. 28, San Diego County remains in the red tier of California’s Blueprint for a Safer Economy, a color-coded plan for monitoring COVID-19 across the state's counties. This categorizes San Diego County as having “substantial” case and positivity rates and imposes restrictions on certain businesses, including family fun centers.
In the red tier, the state’s guidelines say family entertainment centers can open only outdoors, with COVID-19 modifications. This includes Go-Kart racing, mini golf, and batting cages – but certainly not indoor laser tag.
Meanwhile, back in June, Boomers! – another family entertainment attraction with locations in San Diego County – announced via social media it planned to close two of its San Diego locations, also due to the strain of the pandemic.
Boomers! permanently shuttered its El Cajon location on Graves Avenue. The Kearny Mesa location on Clairemont Mesa Boulevard also closed – but there are plans to revive that location under its original name, Family Fun Center.