MASON CITY, Iowa - Two more local entertainment options have been felled by the pandemic.
Escape Iowa, which owns escape rooms in Mason City and Clear Lake, and Battlefield Midwest, a Clear Lake-based laser tag facility that shares space with Escape Iowa, have announced they will be shutting down.
Tyler Anderson opened the escape rooms about 5 years ago, with two other partners helping him get the concept up and running.
"None of us had even done a room, let alone build one before. But we thought, 'you know what, this is a pretty simple concept, and we really enjoy puzzles.' We went in humbly, and worked our tails off and put together the first room."
On average, the rooms see about 3,500-4,000 guests annually; however, the escape rooms were closed during March and April, during a peak time for business. When they did reopen, traffic was down significantly.
"This last winter, that took it out of us. Normally out of that 3,500-4,000, we get two-thirds of that from January to May, and so when you lose half of those months, it's a pretty killer fact for operating and running stuff."
Anderson, who also owns Tropical Sno and Roller City, says that Escape Iowa needed to stand on its own financially, which is a challenge considering it is a niche type of business.
"We can't really rely on it for a full income for anybody. When you have that kind of situation, it's more of a year by year deal, and we would've been in a spot to start saving and be in a much better spot financially, but we still have to pay start up bills, and building out a space is expensive. All of those factors played together in the decision to close. I can't let one business bleeding carry over into another business. They all need to stand financially on their own, and that was our reason for closing up the escape rooms."
Anderson says he's not selling the escape rooms, largely due to the logistics behind them.
"When we build a new room, we build it from scratch. There's nothing like anything what we're doing around. I didn't feel comfortable selling it, knowing that I would still be very, very involved to make it work, with switching out rooms. Some of it would be simple, but the actual manufacturing, creating a new room would be next to impossible if you don't know what you're doing."
While Battlefield Midwest will not reopen, Escape Iowa's room in Mason City, with a 'Revenge of the 80s' theme, will remain open until August 29.