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Exploring new realities

Alex Doty • Sep 24, 2016 at 2:00 PM

Local resident Jason Baumgart hopes his new business will bring area residents a whole new realm of entertainment.

Baumgart recently opened the VR-cade at 321 S. Beechtree St. in Grand Haven, a new arcade where users can experience the newest virtual reality technology.

"I came up with this arcade idea after discovering Oculus on Kickstarter,” he said. “I contributed money to the campaign, so I was updated monthly on the progress.”

After discovering the high entry price to get into the new technology, Baumgart said he decided to invest in the idea.

Baumgart noted that the entry point for a home virtual reality system can be as high as $1,000 for the computer and around $900 for the headset.

“The goal of The VR-cade is to provide a new and exciting experience to the families of Grand Haven and West Michigan,” he said. “The facility itself has six VR rooms and one non-VR room.”

The VR-cade offers customers the opportunity to have a variety of experiences, from demoing various virtual reality technology to extended-use sessions.

Some of the experiences in the VR-cade’s lineup include standing atop a virtual building and looking down at the streets below, going face to face with a large dinosaur and alien, riding a raft in a faraway country, and painting 3-D artwork with a pallet of different brushes and effects.

To participate in these and many of the other experiences and games, people can book appointments for the various services at the VR-cade website, GrandHavenVR.com.

In addition to the latest virtual reality systems, the new arcade will also host classes and tournaments beginning this October.

“Our first class will be ‘Intro to Computer Hardware.’ In this class we will take apart a PC and identify every major component inside it and explain what each part’s function is,” Baumgart said. “At the end, we will have a lab where the students will have to put together a PC with the parts provided.”

This class will be around 90 minutes and the goal will be to have enough information to build/troubleshoot/upgrade a computer.

“The tournaments will start around November,” Baumgart said. “They will be held on our 120-inch projection screen and will feature popular current generation consoles such as XBox One, PS4 and Wii U, and current popular tournament games like ‘Super Smash Bros’ and ‘Call of Duty.’ These will be cash tournaments where the winner will take home cash and a membership to The VR-cade. The goal of the tournaments is to help build a gaming community to help kids/adults form new friendships with other gamers.”

And though the location is new in Grand Haven, Baumgart already has his eyes set to future possibilities.

“We would like to expand our business into Grand Rapids next year if this year goes well,” he said. “We already have upcoming events planned at The Lakes Mall and an expo that is in the works for the Grand Haven Community Center, tentatively named The Nerd Conference.”

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