--Sports Simulators Offer Unique Amenity for MDU Builders

Johnson Development Associates was looking to add a unique amenity to its Haven Apartment Communities in Pennsylvania and South Carolina when they discovered Visual Sports multi-sports simulators.

A mix of young professionals and empty-nesters make the Haven at Cranberry Woods in Cranberry Township, Penn., just outside Pittsburg, an active community.

And there are plenty of amenities for its residents: a resort-style pool, a gourmet kitchen in the clubhouse, a gastro pub, and even an Internet café. The community also offers free Wi-Fi, an outdoor grilling area, fitness center, and a fire pit.

And the facility now offers something new: a multi-sport simulator by Visual Sports.

Johnson Development Associates opted out of offering home theaters in its apartment communities in Pennsylvania, South Carolina and Virginia in favor of sports simulators. Sports simulators offer more bang for the buck, more entertainment options for their residents, and has proven to be far more marketable for the company than home theaters.

“In the past we’ve had theaters, but we don’t see them getting as much use, so we’ve upgraded that space and added the sports simulators that create a lot more buzz when it comes to marketing the product,” says Rich McPhillips, director of development for Johnson Development Associates.


Multiple Sports in One Simulator

Visual Sports simulators are similar to other golf simulators on the market with one big difference: Visual Sports offers 13 different sports and games on their simulators, including a golf simulator that analyzes your swing.

In addition to hockey, its first and most popular sport (Visual Sports is based in Toronto), it also offers:

  • two baseball games (hitting or pitching)
  • basketball
  • two football games (kicking or quarterbacking)
  • soccer
  • cricket
  • rugby (kicking drop goals)
  • zombie dodgeball game (popular with kids and zombiephiles)
  • carnival games
  • bocce (to be released this year)

A hunting game is in the works according to Visual Sports marketing manager Chris Lee.

“We’re always working on other games and game development,” Lee says. “Game development is one of our competitive advantages, so we have to build up our library of games.”

One reason Visual Sports succeeds is because it goes into markets golf simulators don’t. “Historically golf-only simulators have been just an older male dominant product that dad would buy for himself as an Id product,” Lee says.


But children (and Millennials and Gen Xers) are hooked on video games, and Visual Sports realized that families comprised an untouched market. “This is not just a product for him anymore. This is a product for everybody: An entertainment piece for him and his friends and the children and their friends,” Lee says.

McPhillips agrees with that assessment. Johnson Development Associates has the system installed in four of its apartment communities in Cranberry Township, Frederick, Md., Mount Pleasant, SC, and Dumfries, Va., and has plans to install the game in its new apartments in Melbourne, Penn.

“We’re spending more for the simulators but we’re getting more use (than home theaters),” McPhillips says.


“They create a social environment. People can hang out and have sidebar conversations while one person plays golf or is throwing a ball at the screen. It’s a fun, interactive way to generate some energy in the community. We like to install them next to a gastro pub setup in our club room. It adds another activity to create conversation. In some ways it creates a sports bar scenario.”

The Game Hardware

The technology the game uses is similar to a golf simulator. Four cameras, called the V Track camera tracking system, are located in front of the screen. They capture the ball flight data including speed, trajectory and angle of the ball at captures ball flight data at 2,000 frames per second, more than 30 times faster than HD video.

he Swing Track camera is mounted on the ceiling and is used exclusively in golf simulations. This camera is mounted directly above the tee and captures 600 frames per second.

After each shot, a window pops up on the VS Console depicting the frame by frame impact of the shot, which can help the golfer correct his or her shot.

The size of the setup, which includes a screen and a variety of sports balls, is customized to fit the space.

“With some of our competitors you’re very limited in size. They sell you a box that is yay big by yay big and if you want one this is what you have to buy. We custom design and build it directly to that space. Not everybody has a vast empty space to build this in,” Lee says.

The software is also customizable and upgradable. Customers can select the games they want on the console, and download new games (for a fee) as they become available. Visual Sports regularly updates its current games and offers free CDs or sends download links to existing customers. Lee says the computer may need to be upgraded every few years as graphics change. Some commercial games feature the stadiums and uniforms of professional sports teams.

The sports simulator has helped the Haven communities differentiate themselves from other apartment communities.

“It’s relatively easy to install and design for once we get Visual Sports and the architect together,” says McPhillips. “It’s a cost effective way to differentiate ourselves in terms of our amenity package.”

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