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James Welter demonstrates a virtual reality game at The Grid on University Avenue in Waterloo on Thursday.

WATERLOO — James and Ashley Welter are giving Cedar Valley residents a chance to battle ghoulish zombies or play with cute flying dragons.

The couple opened The Grid, a virtual reality arcade, about three weeks ago in space shared with Adrenaline X Laser Tag at 4051 University Ave.

Customers use a headset and hand-held controllers to navigate and interact in a three-dimensional wonderland, playing a variety of different games for players of all ages.

“It tricks your brain in to thinking you’re right there in the game,” Ashley said. “In Richie’s Plank Experience, you go up 80 stories and then you walk out onto a plank.

“It actually feels like you’re up 80 stories,” she added. “I got dizzy once and had to take the headset off because I was scared I was actually falling.”

The Grid is the first virtual reality arcade to open in the Waterloo-Cedar Falls area, and the Welters believe the nearest similar business in 90-miles away in Dubuque.

James said he had an expensive virtual reality system at home and believed the arcade was something many other residents would enjoy.

The Grid currently has two rooms, which allows players to play alone or compete together in a variety of immersive experiences.

“Our most popular is Arizona Sunshine, which is basically shooting zombies,” Ashley said. “People love doing that with a friend.”

Space Pirate Trainer, which involves fighting off waves of robots on an interstellar outpost, is the most popular one-player game.

Those seeking a gentler experience or something for younger kids can check out Beast Pets, where players interact with flying dragon-type critters acting more like puppies. There’s even a relaxing place to wander around different worlds listening to soothing music.

“I think a lot of people think it’s more for kids, but we have adults that come and play too,” Ashley said. “They have a blast, especially if it’s like a father and son or mother and daughter playing together.”

The Grid prefers customers to make reservations — the price is $15 for 30 minutes or $25 for an hour session — but they’ll take walk-in players if space is available.

“We do plan on expanding to have eight to 10 rooms by the beginning of next year,” Ashley said.

The Grid is open from 3 to 9 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday; 3 to 10 p.m. Friday; 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Saturday; and 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Sunday.

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Waterloo City Reporter

Waterloo city reporter for the Courier

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