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'Escape Artists' attraction planned for Downtown Sanford

A couple of Longwood entrepreneurs plan to take an attraction that has been popping up in the last couple of years in Orlando's tourist corridor, and introducing it to more sedate Sanford.

Brian Bechtel and Nancy Philips plan Escape Artists for the city's historic commercial district, which they see as a skill- and fun-filled interlude for teams (especially from companies) to use their problem-solving skills to collectively overcome puzzles, and successfully navigate different escape scenarios from different rooms.

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"Not only is it going to be very challenging, it will require everyone to act as a team," Philips said.

The twists and turns players will have to take in 'Escape Artists.'
The twists and turns players will have to take in 'Escape Artists.' (City of Sanford)

Sanford was chosen because they wanted to bring "the same I-Drive fun, but avoid the traffic," Philips said.

There are clues and codes provided to get out of dilemmas in a certain time period, serving as a team-building effort with a good dose of ingenuity and entertainment thrown in.

The cost for Sanford Escape Artists will be promotional at first, and later be priced similarly to the Orlando locations. A similar offering, The Escape Game Orlando, near the Orlando Eye on International Drive, charges about $130 an hour for four people.

Bechtel, who got his business license for Escape Artists on Wednesday, is taking up about 26,059 square feet in a multi-tenant,two-floor office building at 115 N. Oak Ave.

In a truly generational juxtaposition, the attraction will be next door to the PICO building at 209 N. Oak Ave., one of Sanford's most historical pieces of architecture. The building was created as a hotel in 1887, and served as the terminus for the railroads and river steamboats that served Central Florida.

Bechtel said he and Philips have so far put about $30,000 into equipment and props for  Escape Artists, and expect to invest close to $200,000 over the next three years. Bechtel does plan to keep his day job as a project manager in Lake Mary, at least for awhile. And Philips will also stay in her job as a payroll analyst.

The building is owned by Hoogland Orlando Inc., whose officers are Joyce and Perry Van Beek of Illinois.

Bechtel started in the business as an enthusiastic player, traveling the region to play escape games.

"It's a release similar to skydiving because you are so immersed in what you are doing," Bechtel said.

Commercial real estate company First Capital Property Group is representing the Van Beek's in the lease.

Have a tip about Central Florida development? Contact me at ktalley@growthspotter.com or (407) 420-5176. Follow GrowthSpotter on FacebookTwitter and LinkedIn.

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