Leaders Share What’s Now, What’s Next In Family Entertainment
Family entertainment centers are gathering places, but in February leaders in the industry will have a gathering of their own. “Most conferences are really aimed at people starting an FEC business but no quality forum exists currently focused on leadership. This conference is for decision makers,” shares George Smith, a co-founder of Face 2 Face Entertainment Conference (F2FEC).
“Four years ago, two friends and I first got the idea to bring the best of the best together because by sharing information we can improve the business both in political and financial arenas. There have been very few innovations in the FEC business for decades. Much of it is derivative of early progenitors such as Chuck E. Cheese and what worked in the entertainment marketplace.
“The FEC business is unique. We want to create a forum where experienced owners and operators can share best practices and have face-to-face interaction to keep up with the challenges of the industry.”
The inaugural Face 2 Face Entertainment Conference is scheduled for Feb. 24-26 at the Point Hilton Tapatio Cliffs Resort in Phoenix. It is designed as an educational conference to benefit all family entertainment center professionals, including manufacturers, suppliers and operators in all segments of the industry including bowling centers, traditional family entertainment centers, roller and ice skating rinks, trampoline parks, water parks, hybrid parks and specialty entertainment center attractions.
Family entertainment center industry veterans Rick Iceberg, Ben Jones, and George Smith—known as The Three Amigos—have teamed up to stage a comprehensive FEC conference experience.The trio are veteran operators industry supporters and active volunteers with 95 years combined experience in family entertainment. Iceberg is owner and president of C.J. Barrymore’s, a large amusement center with indoor and outdoor attractions, with a strong corporate event and party base, in Clinton Township, MI (Detroit) for 40 years. Jones, with 20 years as an FEC owner/operator, also has experience with 18 startups and 27 years as an entrepreneur, and is currently an FEC Specialist and Senior Lender at Live Oak Bank headquartered in Wilmington, NC. He is an experienced trainer, speaker and event planner.
With more than 30 years experience in the entertainment and amusement business, Smith is president of Family Entertainment Group, Barrington, IL, a coin-operated games and attraction operator with more than 90 locations in 14 states. When asked about the relationship of The Three Amigos, Ben Jones answered, “We have tremendous respect for each other’s talents and we really enjoy working together.” Smith added, “Our approach is different, our styles are different, our industry experiences different, and yet we align on the basics and come together on common goals, big ideals and hopes for the entertainment industry.”
The three men spearheaded the 2013 FEC Phoenix Conference under the auspices of IAAPA, but “we feel that we only got it 70% right,” reflects Rick Iceberg. “We can do better, do more, and we can create a better experience and value for everyone attending.”
After their success there, the three decided to create their own independent, stand-alone FEC conference event and return to Phoenix for its debut. “Pointe Hilton Tapatio Cliffs Resort has great venues and the right mix of amenities which are so important for stimulating great conversations, and we have the space with freedom and flexibility to hold meetings, social functions and bar time in multiple locations, both indoors and outside,” shared Jones.
The three planners are pledging that the new FEC event will be “Bigger, badder, bolder, better and different.”
Jones notes, “To us, bigger doesn’t mean numbers. Bigger for us is bigger centers and a bigger breadth of genres. The point of differentiation for F2FEC is that we are designing the conference for leaders in the industry. We will have new speakers, new topics and new perspectives.” Iceberg adds, “The F2FEC is all about building relationships in a casual setting. Sessions will be short and to-the-point by industry experts. We will not have any long, boring speeches that don’t have relevance to our industry. It will be about industry people sharing among industry people and finding ways to grow the business.”
Sessions at F2FEC will be presented in 17-minute stints similar to “TED-style” presentations inspired by the Sapling Foundation’s popular technology, entertainment and design conferences. Sessions will focus on best practices and trends. Complementing the TED-style talks, table talks and “group think” open forums will sustain a highly engaging atmosphere. Keynotes and debates will alternate with group meals, entertainment, receptions, and prizes to enliven the conference.
“By combining genres and sectors, and fostering camaraderie and idea-sharing among high-level professionals, F2FEC will be able to drive business growth and needed change,” stated Jones. “Someone who isn’t current, who doesn’t hit the ‘refresh’ button, is hurting the industry. We want to develop leadership qualities in our attendees. This conference is not for everyone. We can be exclusionary to the benefit of the attendees. We want senior level professionals to talk about some of the things that are never discussed at other FEC conferences.”
“The F2FEC will be a gathering of the best operators in the country,” promises Iceberg. “We have one goal—make more money. We will share knowledge and experience.”
F2FEC is an independent, philanthropically-produced conference open to all entertainment industry supporters. Membership or affiliation with specific organizations or trade associations is not required for attendance, exhibition, or sponsorships.
“There is no other event for experienced FEC professionals, and to keep it independent of any organizations we are subsidizing the F2FEC out of our own pockets,” Smith comments.
Iceberg is excited about bringing different genres of the industry together to create more innovation. “Bowling is what totally changed my complex. Without bowling my center wouldn’t be anything what it is now. Bowling is a great industry to add to an entertainment center.”
For more information about F2FEC, contact the organizers Rick Iceberg at (810) 444-2222, firstname.lastname@example.org; Ben Jones at
For more information about Pointe Hilton Tapatio Cliffs Resort, go to http://www.tapatiocliffshilton.com.