Stanton and Randi Wilkerson took what used to be a backyard battle for kids with Nerf guns and turned it into a business called Dart Warz.
Now the California natives are bringing it to Wichita.
“What we’re doing right now is essentially building an industry, not just a mom-and-pop shop,” Stanton Wilkerson says. “We offer family fun entertainment, but at the same time, we also have a little bit more extreme side.”
He describes his indoor Nerf battlefield as “somewhere between paintball and laser tag.” The arena-style play features music and has referees.
“It’s an organized chaos atmosphere,” Wilkerson says. “We’re building a sport out of it.”
The Wichita Dart Warz, which will be in the former Pump It Up space at 6803 W. Taft, is the fourth one after a couple in Denver and one in Idaho, which is where the Wilkersons now live.
“We’re expanding our reach from Denver,” Stanton Wilkerson says. “We figure out where the families are at.”
He says they have a team of investors ready to open more Dart Warz locations in rapid succession.
“We’re ready and positioned to start selling franchises,” Wilkerson says.
For now, he says he and his wife are leasing their 7,600-square-foot space.
Ken Saville of Landmark Commercial Real Estate handled the deal.
In the future, Wilkerson says, he may start buying buildings for the arenas.
The Wilkersons have been operating Dart Warz for four years.
“This is a … proven concept,” Stanton Wilkerson says. “Definitely not our first rodeo.”
However, he says, “It looks very simplistic. I think people maybe underestimate it to some extent.”
The guns used at Dart Warz shoot foam darts that range from no pain for the people they hit to pain similar to what targets feel in paintball.
“We know how to modify them,” Wilkerson says.
There will be an extreme night of play one night a week and extreme leagues on Wednesdays.
Otherwise, there will be open play for families on other days.
The Wilkersons will start booking parties in the next couple of weeks at www.dartwarz.com.
They’ve been in Wichita only a few days but hope to have the business ready to go by Sept. 11.
Stanton Wilkerson says they likely won’t stop there.
“There is potentially room for another one on the other side of the city.”