What Warehouse District business in its right mind would close four days before the first Minnesota Twins game played in nearby Target Field?
When the Block E bar-and-video-games venue failed to open on Monday, rumors about a potential closure began circulating amongst area bar owners. But few believed it would actually happen. And with such speed.
A press release issued late Monday by SEGA Entertainment USA, Inc. announced the news. It said that as a result of a “restructuring,” the nation-wide chain would be closing seven GameWorks locations — including the one in Block E, a stone’s throw from the new Twins stadium.
The announcement surprised many, including those closely involved with the Downtown entertainment complex.
“I knew nothing about it,” Joanne Kaufman, executive director of the Warehouse District Business Association, said this morning. She said she had heard rumors about a closure as early as Monday afternoon but voiced confusion as to why GameWorks might close days before the first Twins game.
“We were taken by surprise, as well,” said Kris Brandt, local general manager for McCaffrey Interests, Block E’s developer. "Our understanding was that no one knew. Probably including the manager. They showed up for work yesterday and were told that the store was closing."
Just last week, Brittany Garcia, director of sales for the Minneapolis GameWorks, discussed plans the bar had for a day-long baseball celebration involving all tenants at Block E. The event was scheduled for Friday, to coincide with the Twins' first home exhibition game at Target Field. The game is considered by many to be a prime business opportunity for Downtown bars and restaurants.
Garcia also said a promotions strategy was being planned for Twins home games.
GameWorks' closure comes after a year of looking to sublease its space in Block E.
“Despite all efforts, a combination of the poor economy and years of negative press surrounding the Block E complex as a whole have contributed to a very difficult decision,” GameWorks corporate spokesman Charles McNair said.
When asked if a potential boost in business generated by Target Field was considered in the decision, McNair responded, “The operative word there is ‘potential.’ There’s no way of knowing how well that will do.”
McNair said 55 employees were affected by the closure.
Here is Monday's news release:
Plans Renewed Focus on Profitability and Future Growth
Elk Grove Village, IL -- (BUSINESS WIRE) — March 29, 2010—GameWorks, owned and operated by Sega Entertainment U.S.A, Inc. (SEUI), today announced the restructuring of its organization as it refocuses its mission on profitability and future growth.
“This challenging economic environment has forced us to make these tough financial decisions,” said Cory Haynes, President and Chief Operating Officer of SEGA Entertainment USA, Inc. “The changes were necessary for us to move into the future as a robust, exciting and viable entertainment company.”
The restructuring will result in the closing of seven GameWorks locations: Long Beach, CA; Columbus, OH; Detroit, MI; Minneapolis, MN; Indianapolis, IN; Tampa, FL; and Miami, FL. The company has introduced potential new tenants to mall ownership, in hopes that some locations may be reopened in the future.
Eight other GameWorks locations, plus World Sports Grille in Tucson, Arizona, will remain open and become the focus of renewed effort going forward. Those locations are Seattle, WA; Ontario, CA; Las Vegas, NV; Ft. Lauderdale, FL; Tempe, AZ; Schaumburg, IL; Cincinnati, OH; and Dallas, TX.
Haynes added, “We are committed to meeting the changing needs of our consumers, and to delighting them with a GameWorks experience that is fresh and exciting. We have complete confidence that our leadership team and valued employees will continue to deliver an outstanding experience to our guests with each visit. Their efforts will lead our financial success.”
Editor's note: This story was updated to include a comment from a GameWorks spokesperson.