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In Search of Some Urban Air

Sometimes I’m spontaneous! Last night was one of those times and I found myself making a quick decision to leave a quiet night in Syracuse and, since I was already that far west, keep on driving to Buffalo in search of something new. That’s how I ended up playing Delta Strike Evolution FEC at the newly opened Urban Air in Cheektowaga, NY.

To be perfectly honest, this place was on my radar mostly because I had incorrectly thought that they were running the DS Genesis system, which turned out not to be the case. Certainly not their fault that I had heard wrong information elsewhere. However, the possibility of it was enough for me to make me think it was a good night to drop everything for a road trip, and of course any new laser tag site is always worth exploring!

You might wonder how it’s possible that there could be a laser tag arena in my own home state of NY that I had not been to yet. Well, Urban Air Buffalo had originally opened last fall, but the state regulations in the middle of COVID required it to close almost immediately and they only just reopened a couple of months ago. So this was my first chance to see what new laser tag experience I would now find in western New York.

I walked through the half walled entrance to the vesting area and put on the Evolution pack before setting out to experience the game, which played well and everyone seemed to enjoy. Tagging an opponent multiple times to deactivate is (in my opinion) not always intuitive, but the players caught on quickly. We roamed throughout the space, which is essentially a single level arena with a half level platform in the middle.

My first impression was that this space looked really good! I recognized it as CW work because of a few familiar hallmarks (like the build and the base housings), but it also had a “newness” to it that I had not yet seen elsewhere. I liked the looks of this arena immediately.

Incorporating the logo into the design also caught my eye.

Lighting often makes a big difference and it certainly did here. Usually when I walk into a CW arena I am struck first by familiar walls I see over and over again, but this time my most immediate reaction was “this looks really cool!” and my eyes went right to this focal point arch.

This arch is a nice centerpiece and rises high enough that it adds to their “open air” arena concept, which I discussed with co-owner Rachelle Nurse following my game. The essence of the idea is to have half walls along one perimeter of the arena and at the entrance to the vesting area to allow people on the outside to see into the game area, both for observation and to engage interest. I liked that I was able to get a glimpse of the arena before going in.

I did not take a photo of this open wall area only because, by doing exactly what it was supposed to, there were people sitting all in front of that area and I try to be respectful of when and where I snap a pic. It also did not strike me as completely unusual (although not commonplace either), though it may be a departure from the norm for this particular arena designer. Rachelle asked if I had ever seen that concept anywhere else and, while I have come across this before, it is much less common than that traditional closed in room where an arena would typically be housed. I think this idea works very well in an FEC with lots of attractions working in concert with each other to create layers of the experience. It almost harkens back to the first days of laser tag when Photon had an observation deck built into every center.

Even though I found something different from what I had expected when I walked through the door, I left feeling like this was a very worthwhile trip to have made on the fly. Next time around I’ll plan with a bit more advanced notice so perhaps my teammates in the Buffalo area can join me in catching a little Urban Air!

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