San Jose’s Oakridge Mall lands new gaming tenant GameWorks

San Jose is months from getting the Bay Area’s only GameWorks, a gaming and entertainment venue, set to open at the Westfield Oakridge mall this winter.

The announcement comes as big-box retailers and malls in the Bay Area and across the country look to catch up and adjust with consumer tastes that increasingly favor experiences and dining options over the traditional shopping centers that rose to prominence in the 90s.

“Especially in large block spaces those [entertainment] types of tenants are beginning to be very interesting to landlords because they frankly often draw more foot traffic than some of the older retail tenants do,” Jeff Badstubner, senior vice president at JLL, said in an interview this week.

GameWorks Inc. in particular seems to be capitalizing on that trend along with the well-documented rise in popularity of esports, or competitive video gaming. In May, the entertainment company announced it had paired up with real estate brokerage JLL to grow its footprint across the country.

Now San Jose will be an early beneficiary of the company’s efforts when GameWorks opens a bi-level, 23,500-square-foot location in the former Ethan Allen store at Oakridge.

“We chose San Jose and the heart of the vibrant Silicon Valley market for our next location based on a number of key influencing factors, including the considerable number of video game publishers and technology companies in the area as well as the large gamer population,” Philip Kaplan, chairman and chief executive officer at GameWorks, said in a statement this week.

GameWorks is set to move into the space mere months after Oakridge mall owner, Unibail-Rodamco-Westfield, announced it would fill most of the now-closed Sears store — about 100,000 square feet — with trendy furniture company Living Spaces.

At the time, Dan Foy, senior vice president of leasing for Unibail-Rodamco-Westfield, said in an interview with the Silicon Valley Business Journal that the company has been getting creative with shuttered stores.

“We take advantage of unique opportunities to either introduce new anchor tenants, or transform vacated space into mixed-use offerings,” Foy said.

The new GameWorks at Westfield Oakridge will have a dedicated esports lounge and an arcade alongside a restaurant found in some of its other locations called The Works Kitchen at GameWorks, which has “a modern American eclectic menu,” according to the company.

In true Silicon Valley fashion, the San Jose-based GameWorks will also have “first-to-market attractions and technologies,” that will appear exclusively at Oakridge.

“We are excited to welcome GameWorks to our center and our community,” said Jacob Huerta, Westfield Oakridge Shopping Center manager. “We pride ourselves in offering the best in casual dining, shopping and entertainment for the community, and GameWorks is the perfect addition to our portfolio.”

Badstubner, who specializes in retail real estate, but did not work on the GameWorks deal at Oakridge, said property and shopping center owners that welcome entertainment concepts to their sites deserve some extra credit.

“The entertainment users usually have to go in and do more capital improvements,” he said, noting that things like additional air conditioning units are often needed, along with special flooring or infrastructure for specific types of activities. “That is one thing that makes it difficult for their growth: they need to find owners that are willing to participate.”

Today Game Works operates seven locations across the country. The company also operates TableTop Tap House, a restaurant and sports bar with a game hall in San Francisco.

In addition to seeking out new locations to set up its traditional entertainment concept — like that at Oakridge — GameWorks is also working to integrate wagering esports lounges in casinos across the country. It’s flagship location for that concept, called Play by Gameworks, is expected to launch in Las Vegas.

Contact Janice Bitters at janice@sanjosespotlight.com or follow @JaniceBitters on Twitter.

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