Theodore J. Brown remembers growing up in Detroit's inner city and always having to trek out to the suburbs, (more than an hour away), in order to play his favorite video games.
As an adult, those memories led Brown to make a vow that when he was able to open his own business, it would be one where he "wouldn't have to work a day in his life," but it would provide a positive outlet for inner city youth like he had been.
In April, Brown and his wife Maribel opened The Coliseum, a pay and play gaming center at 39th Street and Broadway Place in Los Angeles.
"We have 21 gaming stations-Xbox 360, Sony PS3 and Nintendo Wii, and kids can pick any of the games we have on hand and play by the hour," explained Brown, who is operating his new business while working full time as a social worker.
In addition to offering video gaming opportunities, The Coliseum gets its members and players involved in tournaments internally and externally; allows students to play other games free such as chess and checkers; offers access to the Internet ($3 for 45 minutes); hosts all nighters (the next one is in August); and provides free tutoring every Tuesday from 5:30-7 p.m. for kindergarten through eighth grade students. The facility also sells light snacks.
Brown said his initial idea is to provide young people a place in the inner city where they can just hang out in a safe environment and be with like minded gamers. To make the business stay safe, there are security cameras posted throughout, and he maintains a good relationship with the local police community liaison officer.
Getting the center up an running took an investment of about $30,000, which came from their personal resources, said Brown, adding with a laugh, that he now truly understands why keeping your credit in good shape is so important.
The hi-definition 26-inch television screens ate up about half of the start-up cost, and are what makes Brown think The Coliseum will be such a big draw.
"A lot of people have the systems in their homes . . . but a lot of people don't have hi-definition. A lot (of) kids come in and say, if they do have hi definition, the screen is smaller, and so they don't get the full resolution of the game graphics and all that.
"The other thing that is a plus," continued Brown, "is that we provide the Internet capabilities, so they can play somebody here or compete with people across the country."
Ultimately, after they perfect the first store, Brown said he and his wife are looking to open a second location that will reflect what they put in their business plan.
"Our business plan was set up as a family fun entertainment center something like Chuck E. Cheese. We'll have the technology side, and also be able to do parties that will come with (hot) food . . . like pizza and burgers."
Brown expects to do that in the future--in about two years. Meanwhile, he and his wife are concentrating on growing this first location, nurturing local gamers, and if they get lucky, the Michigan transplant added, "I would love to be able to foster the next millionaire gamer."