MANCHESTER — New Hampshire’s first Dave & Buster’s arcade and sports bar will open in part of the former Sears at the Mall of New Hampshire by the end of March, bringing more than 200 jobs.
Dave & Buster’s announced Wednesday it will open its 137th location in the 34,400-square-foot space on March 30. Dick’s Sporting Goods opened in the other half of Sears in October.
For the past several years, Dave & Buster’s, based in Dallas, has targeted shuttered Sears locations, including the Natick Mall in Massachusetts.
The restaurant and entertainment venue is best described as “the ultimate place to eat, drink and play and watch sports for families and adults,” said Jason Kien, general manager of Dave & Buster’s.
“That is one of the biggest things that sets us apart from a lot of other places,” he said. “We’re not just a place for kids. We’re not just a place for adults. We’re a place where families can come together.”
Beside classic arcade games, some of the lineup includes exclusive virtual reality games, including one featuring “Jurassic Park.”
Kien cited the growth in higher education and the technology industry in the city as one of the reasons for opening at the mall.
“The Manchester location is poised to become just a great community destination spot,” he said. “It is centrally located.”
In all, Dave & Buster’s hopes to hire 230 front and back-of-house employees, such as managers, servers, bartenders, hosts, line cooks, game techs and many more, according to a news release.
Dave & Buster’s plans to open six locations across the country this year, but no other locations planned for New Hampshire, Kien said.
The Mall of New Hampshire and Pheasant Lane Mall in Nashua are owned by Simon Property Group. The group, which has about 209 properties across the nation, lists 17 Dave & Buster’s on its website.
The Sears at the Pheasant Lane Mall in Nashua and the Steeplegate Mall in Concord will close next month.
Ken Brown, manager of the Pheasant Lane Mall, said plans are underway to fill the Sears space.
“We view it as an unprecedented opportunity for us to make Pheasant Lane Mall even more appealing for our shoppers and enhance the productivity of the space,” he said in a statement.
The Steeplegate Mall in Concord is owned by Namdar Realty Group out of New York. The group did not return phone messages and emails seeking comment on Wednesday afternoon.
Nancy Kyle, president and CEO of the New Hampshire Retail Association, said the Dave & Buster’s is an example of how retail is adapting to diversify options in a changing landscape.
“A mall needs to build a sense of community,” she said. “Dave & Buster’s is a destination and people want to go there because it is not just a restaurant, it has activities. It’s going to be part of making the mall a place to go.”
The Steeplegate Mall in Concord has added a fitness center, theater with live performances, a charter school and a trampoline park.
“Malls are trying to have businesses that will attract people to the mall and it’s not just for shopping, it is a whole lifestyle thing, ” Kyle said.
The model of mixing entertainment and food has been done on a smaller scale across the state, such as board game cafes, said Mike Somers, president and CEO of the New Hampshire Lodging Association.
“There are certainly a few that have popped up, but I would say they are niche in the way they approach it,” he said.