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A Tournament to Benefit Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals

It takes very little to get me on board for traveling to a laser tag tournament, but it’s an even faster “YES” when I know it is to benefit a good cause. That’s why I decided it was well worth flying halfway across the country to play in the Allevity Entertainment laser tag tournament in Aberdeen, SD, to benefit Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals.

For those who don’t know about my pageant background, I spent many years as both a local titleholder and later as a local Executive Director within the Miss America Organization, which has had a long history of fundraising for the Children’s Miracle Network, so this was a cause I could really get behind, just as I have many times before. And so could the members of the team I was placed with, which was made up of all the other solo entrants. Meet our team including Rachel, Bentley and Saffron, as we are here and forever known as “The Random People”. :)

Before anyone else had arrived for the event I was there early to check out the arena and get in a few practice games. Owner David Novstrup was there to greet me and show me around the family entertainment center that he opened with his wife, Holly, back in February of 2020 (what timing!) and that they were forced to close just a few weeks later in March of last year because of the pandemic. However, since reopening that May they have built the business up and it is continuing to grow. He told me they chose the name “Allevity” to be a combination of all three of their daughters’ names (although I told him my first thought was that it meant it’s All Levity at Allevity…because that’s just how my mind works).

David told me that the 3000 square foot arena was designed by Lathan Gareiss and features a mile of LED lights with just over 36,000 LED bulbs. He also told me he believes that “lighting is the future of laser tag” more so than theming because (as he says of the look) “it’s timeless”. That is a very apropos way to put it because when I walked in there were indeed some truly timeless elements.

What will be very apparent to anyone who has tagged in both Toledo and Aberdeen (which I suspect right now may be limited to only Lathan and me) is that this arena is heavily inspired by the aesthetics in Toledo, and that actually reinforces the point about it looking “timeless” because in both cases there were some VERY timeless looks added as an homage to the very first laser tag, the granddaddy of them all, Photon. These trapezoidal doorways built into the grey walls appear throughout the arena and lead in and out of the base housings are clearly inspired by the very first Photon laser tag arenas, so to say they are timeless is absolutely correct, but to dress them up with all those LEDs brings a modern update to a classic shape incorporated throughout the space.

There was also lighting to outline the ramps leading up to each of the platforms, which is something I like to see and I take note when I come across it. I think lit ramps are not only attractive, but also a good added safety feature.

David is right, lighting makes a huge difference and reflects in a TRON (the movie, not the tag) kind of theme from the briefing room to the vesting area as well.

This arena is very cool. Walk around and check it out!

There are a few special touches that also caught my eye. The hexagon cut-outs are very distinctive.

And do you think you know what happens when you destroy the base?

Wait for it…

They have also just recently added two game stations to the arena.

At present, one is used for “spy mode” to allow you to change your color during the game (although with eight color choices to pick from and three pre-determined team colors, an ill-considered flip to something like pink will just make you stand out more) and the other is being used for power-ups.

When I walked into the arena for my first public game upon arrival there was a group of guys who carried themselves in a way that made me think they were probably in the tournament as well. Initially I played my practice rounds low-key, trying not to tip my hand. However, sometimes it is a challenge NOT to take a shot when it presents itself and in a moment of weakness (and spot-on timing) I landed a particularly precise tag and was pegged by the group leader when he called me out saying “we’ve got a real sniper over here!”

Turns out those guys were not actually participating after all, but we did have some good competition for the event.

Five four-man teams competed in bracket competition and we got seeded to take on the winners of the first round. So after A-Team won over the Xtreme Team, Team Rails was the team sent in against us, the Random People. By all appearances you might describe us as the perceived underdogs. However, a couple of posts back didn’t I write about how looks can be deceiving? :)

Some background that I didn’t know at the time was that Team Rails was made up of the local Crossfit trainer and some of their Crossfit members, so when this team of strong, confident, muscular guys (and gal) walked in to play against a couple of young girls and an unfamiliar woman (me), you can imagine that most people would have bet on their team to take an easy win. That’s what makes me most proud of this victory that our team managed to pull off…

Gotta say, I was feeling like Coach Boeheim right about then! One bracket in and it felt like I had coached this rag-tag team of young girls to a rather unexpected first round victory over the more Goliath-like team…and they REALLY could not believe that happened! Honestly, although the younger players were still green and just following direction and instinct as best they could, Rachel is a very good player and another great example of how looks can be deceiving!

This outcome sent Team Rails off to have to work to earn their way back. Meanwhile, I enjoyed some sliders in the cafe while waiting for our team’s next matchup against the A-Team.

The A-Team lived up to their name. These guys are exactly what I would picture a team of solid laser tag players to be. Young, gamer guys with skill and agility…and I’m betting they practically live in their home arena, the same way I do in mine. Their coordination and teamwork really showed.

Not that we didn’t give it a good run, but the A-Team earned their victory against us that round. They were solid and they deserved it.

Something interesting about this event was that the scores did not include any base tags or targets, as those elements had been turned off, so all scores were 100 percent the result of player to player tags. I know some in the Zone community might raise an eyebrow about “no bases”, but I actually liked this format a lot. It felt like a very pure way to play. It also reminded me a lot of my early days playing Rift (ah, memories!) and that may in part be because it had been a solid year since the last time I had held a Helios 2 phaser in an arena. So this was one of those “it’s all coming back to me now” scenarios.

Back to the tournament…

So Team Rails was back against us in the next round and this time we no longer had the element of surprise working for us. In fact, it appeared that the team leader was especially coming for me. While I generally play best as a sniper, I can dogfight decently to hold a position when I have to. I learned long ago that direct engagement in this game largely boils down to being in sync with the timing and my sense of timing was “on” tonight.

This really appeared to rile the Rails team leader, who seemed to think this style of game play and “following” are one in the same (they obviously are not, you can always choose to hold a position or choose to disengage), so that made things a bit heated in the arena at times. However, I don’t get easily intimidated and I kept telling my team to stay fierce no matter what. As a result we took it up a notch with the team communication. When I called out the opposing team’s position I was pleased to see how my teammates responded (with a particular shout out to Rachel who was always right on it) and we kept this game CLOSE. Inside the arena we continued to hear the announcements as the lead flip-flopped between teams steadily throughout that round. After it was over David told me we were up by about 50 points in the last 30 seconds of the game. However, it doesn’t take much to shift a close margin and ultimately just a couple of tags made the difference in the final moments. We did not take another victory against them this round, but we were VERY close. That landed us in an unofficial third place with the two remaining teams being the undefeated A-Team against the scrappy Team Rails.

Well, the A-Team certainly earned their tournament victory and came out of the final game with a solid 2000+ point margin over Rails. I was happy for these guys. It was a good night for them and a well run tournament that certainly had some highlights and interesting moments. And of course, when all was said and done, it felt good to know that our participation would benefit the Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals. I would definitely return to participate in a similar event at Allevity Entertainment. This was a great time that helped out a great cause!

And speaking of laser tagging to support a great cause, just a reminder that the next Tag 4 A Cause night is coming up in two weeks. Remember you can also participate in the Tag 4 A Cause Laser Tag 5K Challenge at any laser tag arena, anywhere now through December to earn the new resin challenge medal when you donate to the American Red Cross Disaster Relief. Find all the details here…

My thanks to Allevity Entertainment for a great time, a well-run tournament and an awesome reason for me to return to South Dakota!

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