Thornaby’s Gaming Hideaway to open centre in Bishop Auckland

The Gaming Hideaway, based at St Peter’s House in the town’s Pavilion shopping centre, is to open another attraction in Bishop Auckland.

A VIRTUAL reality gaming centre in Thornaby is celebrating its first birthday by announcing it is to open a second venue.

And owners Kaiyn and Rachel Crooks are set to take on 12 new staff – in addition to the ten they already employ on Teesside.

The centre in Thornaby opened for business on May 17th 2021, when lockdown restrictions brought in amidst the Coronavirus pandemic were lifted.

At the time, Kaiyn and Rachel revealed they had invested a six-figure sum in transforming the former council offices into a gaming paradise, complete with VR simulators and headsets.

They are now set to invest a similar figure again in their new Bishop Auckland venue.

Rachel said: “We weren’t sure what to expect when we opened and there was definitely a risk in what we were doing because there was nothing else like us.”

Kaiyn adds: “I was nervous – we put every single thing we had into it – but thankfully, it’s gone better than we expected.

“We knew we had something special – they say if you build it they will come – and we feel very blessed and so grateful for the support we have had.

“I didn’t think that just before our first birthday, we would have the keys to the second Gaming Hideaway – that speaks for itself in terms of how successful it’s been.”

Rachel and Kaiyn say that despite the effect of the pandemic on a lot of entertainment venues, their popular attraction is frequently operating at 80% capacity on weekends and during school holidays.

With such healthy figures to build on, the couple are being supported with their growth plans by Andy Briggs of IA Growth Ltd.

Game on – North East virtual reality centre is expanding and recruiting

In the future, the couple would like to replicate their Thornaby and Bishop Auckland offerings across other towns and cities – but they are taking everything one step at a time.

“It’s still new and we are not big enough to move it as fast as we would like to move it yet,” Rachel says.

“Our staff are brilliant – we have ten now and many of them have been with us since day one and like the place as much as we do. We’re really grateful to them for their part in making it as successful as it is.”

The couple’s venture has also had an impact on the local community, with Kaiyn and Rachel donating a day’s takings in December to buy gifts for underprivileged children and their regular autism events providing a welcoming space for young people who may otherwise struggle to enjoy a day out.

Rachel gets great satisfaction from interacting with the families from Autism Parents Together, as they get a rare chance to watch their child enjoying activities alongside other children.

She said: “Last time we held one, there was a little girl who doesn’t really talk very much and when we put the headset on her on the virtual reality slide, she had her hands in the air and was screaming with excitement.

“Watching her enjoy it and her parents getting so much pleasure from seeing their child enjoying herself made me fill up.”

The family specifically chose Bishop Auckland for their next venture, as Rachel used to live in the nearby village of Westerton and wants to be involved in trying to “bring some life back” into the town.

The new venue is double the size of The Gaming Hideaway in Thornaby, and there are also big plans to further improve their Thornaby offering, with developments to be revealed later in the year.

Article first published on The Northern Echo website 18th May 2022 – written by Mike Hughes, Business and Commercial Editor.