Parc Lafayette says no to Pokemon Go

People play Pokemon Go at the Louisiana Brigade Memorial statue in Parc Lafayette. (Photo: LEE CELANO/THE ADVERTISER)

LAFAYETTE, La. (The Daily Advertiser) – Christine Kief opened her Pokemon Go app every few minutes Thursday morning while her two children played in Parc Lafayette’s splash pad.

Kief, 29, had visited the private retail development in south Lafayette almost daily for a month to stock up on items used in the smartphone game, which layers geocaching and augmented reality to the popular Pokemon franchise. When the app showed no nearby Pokestops or gyms at her location Thursday morning, Kief assumed there was a glitch in the game. She’d just visited the night before to stock up on Pokeballs.

But it wasn’t a glitch.

Parc Lafayette management asked Niantic, the company behind Pokemon Go, to remove its presence in the development. The glow of the game’s many stops and the gym at Parc Lafayette dimmed just before sunrise Thursday.

“I’m absolutely disappointed,” Kief said. “I’ve been bringing the kids by every day and letting them play in the water while I play the game. Then, we’d all go and get milkshakes at Grub (Burger Bar) after. Now I don’t really have a reason to come back.”

Parc Lafayette was known by local Pokemon Go players as one of Acadiana’s hot spots for game play.

The development’s many monuments had been identified in the game as Pokestops through data imported from Google Maps. The Grouse Room in Parc Lafayette also served as a gym, a place for players to challenge one another.

At peak hours, dozens of players trekked through the development. Some business owners enjoyed an increase in customers, but others complained about loitering, littering, parking issues and property damages.

“We made efforts to work with the Pokemon Go community, but we felt like we weren’t left with any other choice but to remove the stops,” Mistie Babin, a spokeswoman for Parc Lafayette, said Thursday.

Most business owners in the development haven’t been vocal one way or another about the removal of the stops, Babin said, but many Pokemon Go players took to Facebook to voice their opinions about the situation. A few encouraged others to give Parc Lafayette a poor rating on Facebook, but many others defended the development.

What ultimately drove management to request the removal of the stops was the danger to pedestrians while motorists played the game while driving through the development’s parking lots.

“If something would have happened and I had knowledge of a simple fix to prevent it, that wouldn’t be OK,” Babin said. “I had a simple solution to ensure that this is still a safe place for people to come and enjoy the amenities.”

Fewer people may be enjoying the amenities in the development without Pokemon Go as an incentive, however. Kief is just one of many who spent time and money at businesses in the development during her time playing Pokemon Go at Parc Lafayette.

Jacob Muffoletto, a bartender at Grub Burger Bar, said the restaurant had seen an uptick in business from Pokemon Go players this summer.

“The people from Pokemon Go had been providing a lot of business to us during the slower times,” said Muffoletto, who is an avid player of the game. “It will negatively affect our business now that they took it away. Those customers were very valuable to us.”

E’s Kitchen owner Paul Ayo also saw an increase in business.

“I had some people coming in who were playing the game,” Ayo said. “But we also had moms and dads who brought their kids so they could play while they shopped, and some of these people had never been before — not to my store or even to Parc Lafayette.”

Ayo used the game as a marketing tool for his retail shop and to encourage more people to attend the monthly food-truck roundup at the development. He also regularly plays the game with his 9-year-old daughter.

When he learned Thursday morning that the stops had been removed, Ayo reached out to Parc Lafayette management and took to Facebook to encourage players to continue to support the businesses inside of the development.

“I just ask that people not boycott the center,” Ayo said. “All that’s going to do is hurt the businesses that are already hurting because of the current economy.”

Don Usie, who owns the men’s clothing store Partners Ltd., said the game had negatively impacted his business. He learned from Parc Lafayette management last week that the stops would be removed.

“I’m glad because they were taking a lot of our parking, and people were going the wrong way down the one-way and were playing the game while driving,” Usie said Thursday. “I’m sorry, but we got to make a living.”

Aileen Dauterive, who owns the boutique Park Lane in the development, said the game had not positively or negatively impacted her business. She is glad to see the stops go, however.

“It has stopped a lot of loitering outside of my shop, so I’m grateful that they’ve stopped it,” Dauterive said. “You had strange-looking people, both adults and children, standing outside of the shop. You’d have drivers going at 2 miles per hour through the drive park, and you’d have traffic getting backed up.”

A compromise between Parc Lafayette and the Pokemon Go community is still possible, according to Babin. Individual business owners could request for Pokestops or gyms to be located at their shops in the development.

“We’d be open to discussing having some Pokestops here again but not the amount that were here before,” Babin said. “It’s not anything personal. It has nothing to do with us not wanting a certain group of people at Parc Lafayette.”

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