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Middletown Life

It’s all fun and games at Camp Adventureland

Apr 21, 2022 03:08PM ● By Tricia Hoadley
By Natalie Smith
Contributing Writer

You could say that Brian Moores is serious about people having fun.

Moores is an owner/operator of the axe-throwing, escape-room solving Camp Adventureland, a summer-camp themed spot offering entertaining choices for customers wanting to test their physical or analytical skills.

“We’re primarily a family-oriented entertainment venue,” Moores said of the 12,000-foot facility off Patriot Drive in Middletown. In addition to axes and the escape rooms, “campers” may try their hands at knife-throwing, cornhole or ladder ball. Feeling a little hungry? There’s a concession area where snacks are available, and for adults, Jason’s Tavern boasts more than 50 craft beers, wines and seltzers.

The sport of indoor axe-throwing has participants competing by trying to hit a target for accuracy. Throwers are trained and supervised.

Knife-throwing is also at a target. Moores said Camp Adventureland is the only venue in the Delaware Valley to offer the sport. “We have several customers who come back every couple of weeks,” he said. “We have a pro shop where we sell axes and knives for those who come on a regular basis and want to have their own implements, rather than using the ones we have on site.”

Moores said there’s also enough interest in this activity which allows his facility to operate Wednesday-night leagues.

Participants ages 10-to-17 are allowed to throw axes and knives with adult supervision, but those 9 and under don’t have to feel left out.

“I developed a couple of new games, specifically a [foam] suction-cup axe game and a bean bag game that are both based upon the scoring principles and design of the axe-throwing target. One of them is kind of a cross between a bean bag toss and Skee-Ball.” The throwing and scoring are the same as the adult games.

According to Moores, about 4,000 square feet is dedicated to the escape rooms, with four rooms in operation. The area for axe- and knife-throwing is 6,500 square feet while another 1,500 square feet is allocated for cornhole competition as well as the reception area.

There’s plenty of room for entertainment.

For the uninitiated, escape rooms, which have been popular both online and in person for a number of years, are interactive adventures in which participants discover and use clues to reckon their way out of a themed room. When working as a group, players generally are limited to an hour.

The current escape rooms in Camp Adventureland are Curse of the Jade Skull, The Blind Tiger Speakeasy, The Sirens Song and Save Santa’s Workshop.

“Probably 50 percent of the people that come in have never done an escape room before and the ones that come in that have done a couple before are looking for a good experience,” Moores said, describing the pains that Camp Adventureland takes to make its rooms challenging. “Ours are primarily electronically focused. There's a lot of proximity switches and magnetic switches in a lot of the artifacts and so forth, put in specific locations or oriented in different directions and based upon a story line.

“Each one of the rooms starts out with not only a theme but a complete story line.”

He explained an escape-room experience. “If someone were coming into Save Santa's Workshop, for instance. We’d bring them in for their registration and before they even come into the back into what we refer to as Camp Escape, we tell them all about the safety rules; don't touch anything like light bulbs or light switches. [We] tell them how to manipulate things without breaking something.”

He said they would be brought to an area that was set up like a cabin with cots, lockers and a fake fireplace. “It looks like you’re walking into a summer-camp cabin.” Moores invites the participants to gather around the fireplace. He gives them the radios for communication between them and the controller room.

Then he tells them a story. “We’re in Santa's Workshop. Here's what happens: Jack Frost, the dirty little devil, he and his minions got into Santa's workshop last night and made a complete mess of it. This is what they did: they messed up his paint set; they hid a bunch of his tools. And the worst thing they did was they hid the chief elf’s key which he uses start the workshop machinery and make toys. Without that, there won’t be any toys this Christmas. So, your job to get in there, put everything back to where it was and figure out what he did with chief elf’s keys. You get Santa's Workshop working again.

“[The escape room participants are] escorted into the room and I explain a couple of the options in the room. Like there is a tote board here. As you finish up your puzzles, this will keep a tally of where you're located in your progress. And I explain to them how to reset the positional lock, so they don't play with something that they don't understand. I start up the audio and Santa Claus comes on and welcomes them to the room and Santa Claus and Jack Frost have a back-and-forth conversation and then off they go to their escape-room event.

“We set the escape room and watch them over a camera. And if they have questions, they can call us on the radio or they can say, ‘how much time do we have left?’ And we let them know.”

Moores and his staff handle the escape-room participants with a light touch. “I take the opinion that people are paying a fair amount of money to come into escape rooms, and have an experience with their friends or with their family. So, I try not to - and tell my staff not to - integrate themselves into the experience unless they're invited in by the guests. So when you see something going wrong …  if they’re having a rough time, don't get frustrated for them and say, listen turn around look at such-and-such, which a lot of people tend to do in other escape rooms. They kind of guide them along the way.

“We're here if you need us, but we're not going to interfere. If you want help we’re more than happy to give it, but we're not going to just jump in there willy-nilly.”

Moores’ background is paramedics at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital. He and his wife Meg Etherington, were at first silent investors in Camp Adventureland when a series of circumstances had them taking over the business.

Moores ended up working full time at Camp Adventureland for two years, and Etherington, who has a job in publishing, tackled the businesses’ books.

“I have an L-shaped desk,” Etherington said with a laugh. “I face one way for my 9-5 and then swivel my chair around and I have Adventureland stuff for a couple hours. Usually at night and on Saturdays, that’s when I catch up on everything.”

After going headfirst into the business. Etherington said that she believes they learned better administration skills. “We’ve just become a lot more efficient with our time and people management,” she said.

Moores, as someone who wasn’t sure others could meet his standards, said, “When you're doing a business like this, you have to develop some trust and you have to have the ability to understand that sometimes things will be 90 percent, and then work from there. Maybe next time you can get 92 percent.”

For those continuing to look for additional escape-room challenges, Moores said customers are in luck. Two new rooms are planned for Camp Adventureland this fall.

Moores said that a mobile facility called “The Axe Shack,” a 16-foot-long trailer with two internal targets for axe and knife throwing is also part of the business.

Along with the throwing areas in the Shack, come two cornhole courts, two ladder ball courts and two kids’ bean bag targets.

“A lot of fun in a big, rolling box,” said Moores.

Natalie Smith may be contacted at [email protected]

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