Sega World Bournemouth

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Sega World Bournemouth
Location: Bournemouth, United Kingdom
Google maps: 50.718393,-1.874131
Opened: 1993-07-24[1]
Closed: 1998 (as a Sega World), 2006 (as a Sega Park)

Sega World Bournemouth was a Sega World video arcade, opened on July 24th 1993[1]. It was the first dedicated Sega-branded arcade to open in Europe, and is thought to have been the largest of its type for its time.

Unlike SegaWorld London, which would become the the Sega World showpiece in the UK, the Bournemouth arcade was initially merely a place to play arcade games and browse a Sega-branded store, visit the Burger King next door, or play bowling, essentially being an early example of what is now known in the arcade industry as an FEC (Family Entertainment Centre).

Themed areas for arcade machines, executed in Bournemouth with the "Zap Attack" and "Driving Edge" zones, would also be a concept that Sega expanded on in SegaWorld London. Sega additionally used this location to demonstrate and test-run many of their newest arcade machines, although this and most of its other unique features were dropped by the late 2000's, with the venue losing any extra pretence besides being an arcade.

Layout

On opening day, Sega World Bournemouth was laid out over 3 tiered floors at ground level of Westover Road. Most of this was undone and altered after 1994, with most areas either closed off or structurally changed in the following years.

Floor 1

The entrance led directly to the 1st floor, which contained the Reception, karaoke machines in an area called "The Din Bin", action-themed arcade machines in "Zap Attack", and access to the back area, with eight mini bowling lanes and a Burger King restaurant under the names of "Sonic Strike" and "Megabyte", respectively.

Floor 2

A raised, centrepiece section in the middle of the arcade, known as "The Driving Edge". The floor primarily featured racing games, including deluxe and 8 player iterations of Virtua Racing, but also had two R-360 units, both running G-LOC.

Floor 3

In addition to exit access, this floor had three main sections-"Toejam's Gang", a children's area with kiddie rides and claw machines, "The Lowdown", an educational section revealing secrets of Sega's research and development of coin-ops, and the Sega Store, selling merchandise and video games.

History

Development

Planning for Sega World Bournemouth is known to have begun as far back as early 1992. After several years of successful arcade operations in their country, Sega Of Japan gave the newly-established Sega Amusement Europe a brief on doing the same in their continent. Permission was officially given by Bournemouth Borough Council for Sega to open an arcade in July 1992, with word getting out in the town's paper soon afterwards.

After the successful openings of two test locations, Metropolis, in the London branch of Hamleys, and SegaFolies, in a Virgin Megastore located in Marseilles, France, building work on Bournemouth began in April 1993. The centre was projected to be opened on July 1st, however after the original floor plan failed a fire safety check, the day had to be pushed back to accommodate this.

Opening

Sega World Bournemouth officially opened on July 24th 1993, to much fanfare. The opening day event (which occurred a week later[2]) was attended by many locals and members of the gaming press, and made underway by popular UK TV personality Chris Evans, also used in other promotions by Sega Europe around this point.

Little else is known about the opening day, however it can be assumed that it went down well from positive magazine coverage. It may have also been filmed for a feature included in the Games World TV series aired on Sky One, though as the footage itself is inaccessible for viewing, this cannot be for certain.

Demise

The venue had ran well in its initial few months of service, frequently testing new arcade machines and even gaining an AS-1 unit, but began to suffer from high running costs in off-season periods. By 1994, the bowling lanes and educational area were removed, and the Sega Shop was closed in 1995. The reception was taken out in 1997, requiring an altered entrance, and following the opening of SegaWorld London, it became known as a Sega Park in 1998.

By this point, larger machines such as the R360's and 8 player Virtua Racing were removed, any named sections of the arcade had been stripped of their branding, and substantial parts of the building were sitting unused. Despite this, its Sega association still made it a hotspot for new games in Bournemouth, with UK Dreamcast magazines reporting on NAOMI-based cabinets on test there in the Autumn of 1999, including Crazy Taxi and Jambo Safari.

On the 31st of March 2000, Sega sold the arcade to The Leisure Exchange PLC as part of a takeover scheme for the rest of their arcades. Under the new owners, more emphasis was put on rigged penny pushers and claw machines, as well as the introduction of gambling machines in an over 18's area known as Sega Casino. This went against Sega's family ethos devised in the early 90's, but since they were no longer in control of the arcades, no changes could be made. As well as refurbishing the arcade and removing most of the Sonic themed decor, giving a much more drab look to the place, management and new employees were rumoured to be hard to deal with, causing Burger King to close their outlet after 10 months.

New machines began to come in to the venue increasingly less often, to the point where even OutRun 2, one of Sega's big releases, could not be found until well into 2004, the game having been released in December 2003. The arcade fell out of favour for any remaining regulars as a result, and was now generally regarded as very old and run-down.

Large amounts of the building were now empty, and management came to the decision to sell the space where the third floor was to be used as a Gala Casino. In February 2005, Leisure Exchange made an attempt to relocate the arcade to a smaller building nearby that formerly housed a branch of the then-bust MVC chain, however local police raised objections on the grounds of "potential high crime and disorder" at the venue.[3]

Post-Sega Rebranding

By 2006, with Leisure Exchange's license to use the Sega branding expiring, the Sega Park was renamed as 'Leisure Exchange and Quasar Elite', with the addition of a new laser tag branch that had opened at the rear of the arcade formerly housing the Sonic Bowl area during the Sega World days. Within 2006-2008, the remaining portion of the arcade was heavily decreased in size after Gala Casino bought out the premises contract for the building and expanded in size to the disused second floor and the rest of the ground floor, leasing the decreased arcade to Leisure Exchange.

Traces of Sega's involvement could still be found in the arcade, including branded welcoming signs and bins. Few machines from pre-Leisure Exchange years were around, with the exception of the deluxe 4 player Daytona USA 2.

In early 2010, the establishment was renamed again to simply "Amusements", and the Quasar facilities were shut down that November due to flooding issues. By 2013, a few machines formerly housed at the then-closed Sega Park Southampton were added to the arcade, such as Ferrari F355 Challenge and Daytona USA, and with stickers from them still intact.

Rebirth

Amid large losses in the company and later ceasing operations fully, Leisure Exchange sold the arcade to ex-Bowlplex managing director Tracy Standish, who chose to run the arcade independently. In 2012, the arcade was given a brand new name: "Prize Central", with a new focus on ticket redemption games. A year later, the arcade was renamed again to "Fun Central". Around this time, older machines getting removed fairly soon afterwards., with others like Dancing Stage Euromix, Time Crisis 4, Let's Go Jungle and a 3 player deluxe setup of OutRun 2 SP being the sole titles to remain after this, alongside new Transformers, Sonic Sports Air Hockey and Basketball machines bought from Sega Amusements. Social media channels set up for the arcade would also occasionally post about its Sega-owned origins.

The arcade was refurbished in 2014, gaining a "ShakeXpress" cafe and losing any small remaining traces of Sega Park-era decor- all but one surviving glass pane, with a piece of Sonic art imprinted on it. Having previously been used in a welcoming sign for the venue, it appeared to have been in storage, until being fixed to an outside wall at the entrance as part of the furnishings. By 2016, ShakeXpress was shuttered and the Sonic glass was removed for unknown reasons, leaving out nothing from the days of when the venue traded as Sega World.

In December 2019, the arcade announced another renaming and re-branding to "Bowl Central", with the addition of a 6 lane bowling alley and restaurant being constructed in the disused Quasar space, which constantly was where Sega World's bowling lanes once were.

Gallery

Magazine articles

Main article: Sega World Bournemouth/Magazine articles.

References


Sega-related venues in the United Kingdom
Sega World
Bournemouth (1993-2000) | London (1996-1999) | Tamworth (199x-xxxx) | Wolverhampton (199x-xxxx) | Birmingham (199x-xxxx)
Sega Park
Glasgow (1993-200x) | Acton (1994-199x) | Colindale (1994-2008) | Southampton (1996-2013) | Wood Green (199x-xxxx) | Basildon (199x-2005) | Reading (199x-199x) | Bristol (199x-200x) | Harlow (1997-2003) | Tower Hill (xxxx-200x) | Harrow (200x-200x) | Holborn (200x-200x) | Brighton (2002-2006)
Sega Zone
Brixton (199x-xxxx) | Catford (199x-xxxx) | Woolwich (199x-xxxx)
Sega Megaworld
Croydon (199x-199x) | Harrow (199x-199x) | Romford (199x-199x)
Sega Prize Zone
West Midlands (2015-Present) | Southport (2016-2019) | Hatfield (2016-Present)
Others
Metropolis (1992-199x) | Planet Sega Queensway (199x-200x)