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  Escape Boardman Hotel Provides Challenges, Can Build Teamwork, And Most Of All, Is A Lot Of Fun  
  January 16, 2020 Edition  
     BY JOHN A. DARNELL JR.
      associate editor
      Three years ago, Nancy Smith opened a 790 sq-ft ‘escape room’ at Glenwood Ave. and Glendale Ave. Known as Escape Boardman, the business has attracted upwards of 12,000 visitors since that time.
      So popular is the business that Smith and four associates, Ivan Bosnjak, Joe Terlecky, Don Hepler and Jeff Humphrey, have decided to open a second escape business, the Escape Boardman Hotel, encompassing 3,000 sq-ft. of space at the Southern Park Mall.
      While Escape Boardman at Glenwood and Glendale provides visitors with two different challenges (escape rooms), the new facility, when fully completed, will offer five different challenges (escape rooms), as well as a banquet room, suitable for birthday parties, and small group gatherings.
      The Escape Boardman Hotel, when fully completed, will offer challenges in a virtual reality room, an ‘insane asylum,’ an Annebelle room that Smith notes will feature “another dimension,” a car wreck room and an ‘upside down’ room. Currently only the virtual reality and insane asylum room are open. The virtual reality room is especially unique, in that it can provide up to seven different challenges, all revolving around different themes, such as “The Prison,” “Sanctum,” “Mission Sigma,” “Christmas,” Cyberpunk,” “House of Fear” and “Signal Lost.” The Annebelle room plays off a theme of Annabelle – the cursed ‘possessed’ doll that was brought to ‘life’ in a movie.
      The escape hotel at the Southern Park Mall is the second entertainment venue that will be at the mall since the Washington Prime Group announced a $30 million renovation plan at the shopping center.
      Scheduled to open later this year is the Steel Valley Brew Works, put together by Stone Fruit Coffee owner and operator Joshua Langenheim, that will offer a huge selection of local craft beers, specialty coffee, baked goods and a state-of-the-art coffee roasting facility.
      Escape rooms are a phenomenon that have been growing throughout the world. Whether played by teenagers, adults or people in team-building programs, the escape room is a perfect way to test your wits in a race against time. The concept is simple---for anyone who hasn’t experienced an escape room, a group of people are locked into a room and have 60 minutes to find the way out.
      With different themes, intriguing challenges and rooms that give you the feeling that you are actually part of a video game, the escape rooms are a perfect way to spend an hour with friends, testing teamwork capabilities, wit and intuition and last but not least, the amount of fun you can have by playing.
      “Simple… but not too simple. To escape the room, the group must face the daunting task of solving different puzzles and find different clues that are linked, one to the other. By doing this, the group can eventually find the key that will open the door to freedom. If they can’t do it… well, better luck next time,” says Smith.
      “Just last week, we had a group from a local bank try one of our challenges,” Smith said, adding “It can help to build teamwork.”
      Visitors to the Escape Boardman Hotel at Southern Park enter into a ‘hotel’ foyer to register. There they are greeted by Annebelle and provided a short video explaining the challenge they will face.
      For example, when registering for the Insane Asylum, visitors are given this challenge:
      “As an intern at Smith’s Insane Asylum, you discover the patient they are using an experimental drug on is your brother Sam.
      “You contact your friends to help you find the antidote and free him from this dark, psychotic place! As luck would have it, a storms hits right as you give your friends access to get into the building. Some of them are caught and trapped by the evil doctor while the rest of you run and hide. You overhear the doctor state that he will return in one hour and then the experiments on your brother and the intruders will begin! Can you rescue your friends, find the antidote to save your brother and escape before the doctor returns? You have one hour to achieve this or you and your friends may meet the same fate as Sam!”
      Groups entering each escape room are watched by a ‘game monitor,’ who, if problems develop in attempting to find an escape, will provide additional clues to patrons.
      To date, more than 5000 feet of electrical wiring has been installed at the Escape Boardman Hotel to accommodate all the challenges visitors may face.
      “We seen all types of groups enter our escape rooms in the past three years,” Smith notes, saying school groups, high school athletic teams, birthday party groups and bachelorette groups have experienced the challenges.
      “We’ve even had three wedding proposals, where we had to change a few things up, so an engagement ring could be found during the challenge,” Smith said.
      Smith, Bosnjak, Terlecky, Hepler and Humphrey, each provides their input into the creation of the challenges that are offered to patrons.
      “We have all been amazed at the different groups who have participated and enjoyed our escape rooms,” Smith said, adding “Once they figured everything out.”
      To book a room, or to obtain additional information, call 330-707-4660, or check the Escape Boardman website.
     
      PICTURED: THE LOBBY AT THE ESCAPE BOARDMAN HOTEL at the Southern Park Mall is overseen by Annebelle, a ‘possessed’ doll perched atop a piano. Among five escape rooms planned at the hotel, is one named after the doll.
 
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