Though it’s been open less than six months, the new SIMPLAY (short for Simulator Play) facility in Long Island, New York, is proving to be an important investment decision for co-founder Chris Wyllie. The 15,000-square-foot facility, which is a converted gym and dance studio, houses eight Visual Sports multi-sport simulators and doubles as an event space capable of hosting parties of a few dozen to more than 200 with it’s smaller venues that include a cocktail lounge, catering areas, a fully-stocked bar, and two VIP rooms.
For Wyllie, SIMPLAY is the culmination of a year-and-a-half journey that involved hatching the idea for the multipurpose facility, meeting his business partner Chuck Merritt, getting the keys to the building, and jumping through a number of regulatory hoops to officially open the doors. But the work that went into designing SIMPLAY extends back even further.
“Back in 2004, I started doing audio/video as a hobby,” said Wyllie. “When I was in high school, I messed around with electronics boards, car audio, and that kind of stuff as a hobbyist. Then I went into the military and I did advanced electronics like missile guidance training, and then I did the special warfare stuff. When I got out, and after putting myself through bachelor’s and master’s degree programs, I decided that I needed to do something that makes me happy, and A/V stuff gave me the most enjoyment.”
So, Wyllie quit the union job he was working and founded SEAL Solutions—a name that stands for Security, Electronics, Automation, and Lighting, while also giving a nod to his military past as a U.S. Navy S.E.A.L.
We’re still searching for an answer on how he came up with the idea for SIMPLAY, though. To that end, Wyllie explained that, a few years ago, he began getting a lot more inquiries from his clientele to put golf simulators in their homes. So, he started researching them, learning about the technology, the requirements, how they’re designed, and so on. Soon after, his brother, an avid golfer, approached him with a problem he was having.
“It was the winter time, and he was telling me how he and his friends would try to go to these golf simulators, which were about an hour away from where he lived, and they couldn’t get a tee time because the places were packed,” he said. “It didn’t make any sense to me that, if there was such a demand, that you would have a facility that only had two simulators or, I think the biggest one on Long Island at the time had four simulators.”
The space is proving to be versatile for Wyllie and Merritt as well, Wyllie said. “We’ve had people getting different high school teams come in, like the golf team or baseball team, during their offseason to get some work in on the simulators. We see this place holding everything from birthday parties to bachelor parties to dance parties and beyond.”
For now, though, Wyllie wants to focus on establishing the name.
“What we’re trying to do right now is we’re trying to let SIMPLAY make a name for itself and then down the road maybe start trying out some different ideas or start trying to implement new things here and there,” he said. “But I’m really fighting to get SIMPLAY to have its own identity at first, because if you keep trying all of these new things, you’re never going to know what works, what doesn’t work, and who you are.”
As for his integration business, the SIMPLAY facility plays right into what Wyllie is trying to do there, and it’s proving to be, essentially, a massive showroom that puts on display everything he’s capable of doing for potential clients.
“What I’m looking for with this is, I’m going to be able to capture people that don’t know they’re my clients yet,” he said. “When you walk in the door, we have Waterfall speakers, we have Crestron throughout the building, we have LG OLED 4K TV, Samsung 4K panels, Epson projectors, music everywhere—everything’s automated.”
Wyllie said he’s expecting SIMPLAY customers to start asking questions about the technology, how it’s done, and—ultimately—how they can get it into their own homes and offices.
And Wyllie believes that integrators can learn a thing or two from the SIMPLAY facility as it relates to their own showrooms.
“At SIMPLAY, clients and customers are seeing stuff happen in a real world situation. Most showrooms are a static demo display that people just assume you have 100 percent accurate before every single demo,” he said. “My ‘showroom’ is a live, breathing, living thing that at any moment something could go wrong because it’s running on its own. I have staff using it, I have—it’s on constantly, things are being changed. People are going to be able to come in and see automation, and it’s really being taxed.”
That’s not to say integrators need to open their own sports simulation facility. The concept is certainly scalable. “I just think they need to take what their core business is and try to just show it in the trenches,” Wyllie explained. “I have my audio video racks literally in a fishbowl. I have a glass IT room that people can walk by and see everything. I’m not hiding it—there’s none of that smoke and mirrors kind of stuff. I guess my advice would be, just try to have a good workhorse example that you can show somebody, and let them beat it up, touch it, move it, see everything, so that they can see really what goes into this stuff.”