Lazer Zone (USA)
Founder: Michael Dragos
Date Established: September 30, 1984
Date Closed: June 12, 2009
Number of Locations: 9
Michael Dragos – Owner and Founder
Kim Dragos – Co-Owner
Tom Wilson - Silent Partner
Bruce Vinkler - Project Manager (1985-1987)
First Facility: 2200 W. Lawrence Avenue, Chicago, IL
Equipment: Players were equipped with a phaser that connected to a battery pack located on the player’s belt, along with a head piece at which the opposing players blasted at in order to score points. The phasers from Lazer Zone were the first laser tag phasers to have a visible beam emit from the phaser. This aspect of his equipment was something Michael Dragos was very proud of, and is quoted with saying, “We have the only gun with a visible beam, otherwise you don’t know if you missed by an inch or a foot.
Quoted from a Lazer Zone brochure; "It's played in our giant arena filled with laser Shields, Battle Towers, and power Stations...immersed in black light, fog and pounding music. Our arena has a red and green team side and is divided to make the game more fun as well as safer. Next, add our exclusive computerized game system with Video Scoreboards, Earthquake Audio, and Cyborg Game narration and you have the world's best laser game.
First, each player watches a training video to learn how to play. Then we pick teams and suit-up with laser gear. The laser has an information panel that displays power level, ammo level, and personal score. Each player starts with a power level of 7 and 50 shots of ammo.
When a player is zapped the laser generates an explosion sound, the headgear flashes with an explosive burst of red and yellow, shooting is disaabled for 5 seconds, and the power level drops by one.
After 5 seconds the laser emits the auto reset sound and is ready to fire again. After 7 hits the power level drops to 0. Then the laser will not automatically reset. It talks and says "Proceed to Power Station." When you run out of ammo pulling the trigger generates an out of ammo sound. In either case... 0 power level, or no ammo you must return to your Power Station to recharge or reload. There is one power station on each side. "
In sometime around 2000, Lazer Zone began to upgrade their equipment to include Power Stations and Attack Towers in which players could interact with. When players entered their own Power Station, they mark it and make it vulnerable to attack from enemy players. Players could attack the other team's power station from their own Power Station. If your team shoots the target and blows up the enemy team's power station, strobe lights and an explosion sound go off and your team gets 20 points.
Lazer Zone was the first known laser tag system with a forward infra-red transmitter. The infra-red beam was encapsulated in a flashlamp-style flash of light that emitted from the barrel of the phaser. It is believed that this technology was used as inspiration by the laser tag company Laser Storm only two years later.
History: If Michael Dragos had only opened Lazer Zone 6 months earlier the history of laser tag would have been forever changed. But he didn’t. Dragos opened up his first Lazer Zone on September 30, 1984 at 2200 W. Lawrence Avenue in Chicago, Illinois.
Bruce Vinkler, who served as the Project Manager, contacted the Laser Tag Museum regarding his tenure with Lazer Zone. Bruce responsibilities included "included locating and evaluating potential venues for this active entertainment. Once a site was procured, he took each location from design through build out. General maintenance and ongoing development of additional features at club locations rounded out the work week."
Lazer Zone is credited with being the second laser tag company in world. This dark horse of the laser tag industry lasted nearly 25 years, which makes it one of the longest laser tag company's in history. To think if he had only opened 6 months earlier……