Gaming lounge gives adults a new place to play

July 19, 2012 by  
Filed under Every thing you Need to Know

Gaming lounge gives adults a new place to play

Gaming’s not just for teenagers.

The Elite Zone, an internet gaming lounge located at the old Navy Shopping Center in Jacksonville, offers gamers ages 18 and older the chance to come and play their favorite games outside of their own home.

The gaming lounge comes quipped with 33 Xboxes, each with their own 22, 32 or 42-inch HD TVs; eight custom built extreme gaming PCs; and a wide variety of games including popular titles such as Modern Warfare 3, call of Duty, and League of Legends.

“Gamers can play with hardcore equipment, without having to commit to buying it,” said John Larson, owner and manager of the Jacksonville Elite Zone location, which opened last summer. “We want gamers of all kinds, casual or hardcore, to all be able to utilize quality equipment.”

Elite Zone also uses fiber optic Internet for high-speed connection, along with Xbox Live Gold accounts on all of their Xboxes.

“Everything’s geared to be online these days, demanding more bandwidth and faster Internet. We offer both of these things,” Larson said. “And we know lag kills.”

While hardcore gamers are drawn to gaming lounges, the Elite Zone is open to players of all skill level.

“I’d consider someone who plays more than eight or more hours a day a hardcore gamer,” says Larson. “And we definitely have those kinds of gamers at all of our locations.”

Featuring an up-to-date and large selection of games to choose from, players are able to try out a new game they’ve never played before without having to purchase it and to meet others who can share tips and tricks with those trying out new games.

“I would recommend coming to Elite Zone whether you’re a gamer, if you just like games, or if you want to try gaming,” said Kelvin Kamp, a frequent player. “The people I’ve met here are all cool, and you have fun hanging out with other gamers.”

A former gamer himself, Larson got the idea for the lounge during a business trip to San Diego. While using a local Internet café and computer center for business, Larson noticed a crowd gathered around Xboxes set up in the back of the center.

“They looked like they were having a really great time,” Larson said. for the duration of the trip he returned to that particular computer center over using the hotel’s internet options solely for the environment. He began to consider the possibility of creating something similar, a lounge that centered on gaming, as opposed to a business center featuring Xboxes.

“Video gaming is an excellent form of entertainment that is continuing to grow,” said Larson. “I wanted to create a place that was for the gamer.”

Larson began his venture in 2009, opening his first store in Fayetteville. as a veteran with the Air Force, Larson also considered what he could to bring to military members as well as local gamers.

“When you’re a 19 or 20 year old in the military it’s a lot different than being that age and being in college,” said Larson. “if you go out, get drunk, make bad choices and get in trouble for it, it affects your career.”

Along with the Jacksonville and Fayetteville locations, Elite Zone is also located in Columbus, Ga. near Fort Benning.

“I wanted to create a familiar place for military members,” said Larson. “as they transfer from base to base I wanted to offer them something similar and consistent, somewhere they can come home to.”

Larson estimates that military members make up more than 60 percent of the members at each of the Elite Zones.

“It’s a good place for young Marines to hang out without getting into trouble,” said Josh Gibbs, assistant manager of the Jacksonville location. “Guys will be lined up at the door waiting for us to open on the weekends.”

Marines such as Sgt. Timothy Thornton were drawn to Elite Zone when it first opened last summer.

“I came here with a group of friends who were all computer personnel,” Thornton said. “You didn’t have to spend a lot of money and it was a good, relaxing atmosphere. We started showing up here every other day after that.”

The windows of Elite Zone are blacked out with the interior being lit up with green ceiling lights, laser lights, and television screens lined up next to each other. The environment is comfortable and clean with large plush chairs and rolling chairs, Turtle Beach headsets at each station and plenty of energy drinks and snacks available for purchase.

“People are normally blown away when they come inside. We’re really all about the gamer,” said Larson.

Along with their casual gaming environment, Elite Zone has also hosted several tournaments, for games such as Modern Warfare and Halo, with different gaming merchandise and cash prizes. Larson plans on hosting other tournaments in the future, with one already being planned around mid-August and September of this year where gamers will be playing Halo: Reach. The winner of the tournament will be sent to play in the Major League Gaming Tournament in Raleigh. More details on this tournament will be released closer to the date.

Elite Zone can also buff and re-polish scratched disks, from games to CDs and DVDs.

With the gaming industry continuing to grow, Larson hopes to continue to expand his business, with more consoles and equipment at current locations, as well as opening other lounges elsewhere.

“so far I am very happy with how this is going,” said Larson. “We have room to grow and our plan is to keep growing.”

Contact Daily News Business Reporter Amberly Pozzi at 910-219-8467 or

Want to go?

Elite Zone is open from 4 p.m. to midnight Monday through Thursdays; noon to 4 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays; and noon to midnight on Sundays. “Pay to play” options include $3 an hour; $10 for nine hours, allowing for gamers to roll over any unused hours into their next session; or $15 for an all-day pass, which lasts until the day’s close. Players also have the option to purchase a VIP pass where they receive discounted prices on gaming rates. for more information, call 910-219-3630 or visit the gaming lounge at 1250 Western Blvd., Jacksonville, in the old Navy Shopping Center

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