Winter Park business navigates maze market
September 11, 2014
In 1987, Greg Gallavan saw "The Wooz" in Time magazine.
The Wooz was a gigantic human maze in Vacaville, Calif.
Gallavan had always been interested in mazes so, on a whim, he took off for California to see The Wooz for himself.
"I went out there just to go do it," Gallavan said. "I was interested, you know? Well, I get there, and they have as many ticket windows as a ski area."
The experience was a bit of a revelation for Gallavan, who at the time was tiring of his job in the food and beverage industry. He wanted to try something new.
In 1988, Gallavan started Amaze Ventures.
His first foray into the maze business was Amaze'n Burgers, a fun center-slash-burger joint in the Alco shopping center in Fraser.
From there, Gallavan expanded his business to constructing outdoor mazes, the first being in the Breckenridge Summer Fun Park, which is billed as "Colorado's largest human maze."
Today, Amaze Ventures Inc., based in Winter Park, has constructed over 60 mazes in countries all over the world, including South Korea and Australia.
Gallavan's clientele include fun centers, miniature golf centers, water parks and private buyers.
The mazes are highly customizable. Some feature themes and even story lines.
Gallavan's more innovative designs include water features and a ropes course.
Amaze Ventures sometimes uses sustainable construction materials like beetle kill pine for projects, including its new maze at Winter Park Resort.
"The Human Maze has been one of Winter Park's top attractions for more than two decades so this year, the resort purchased the maze and made the commitment to both the environment and our base area aesthetic to use this unique looking wood that would otherwise be wasted or burned," said C.A. Lane, assistant general manager/vice president of resort operations at Winter Park.
"Starting this summer, we're very excited to now own the maze because it allows us to give a great physically and mentally challenging experience to a large number of our guests at a low labor cost. Plus, the maze is able to stay open for our guest's entertainment even when inclement weather forces other attractions to close," he added.
Going high tech
Recently, a customer requested that Gallavan build a maze in Singapore that would incorporate both water features and a ropes course, all on top of a six-story building.
Gallavan isn't sure if he'll take the offer, but he said he is moving toward more technologically advanced mazes with systems for timing participants digitally.
He's even considering adding an optional element of education to the mazes by having participants answer questions to get through checkpoints.
Of course, Gallavan said there will always be some customers who opt for the basic mazes, void of electronic accoutrements, and it's safe to say that technology isn't what sells mazes. In such a technologically advanced world, the mazes almost seem to serve as antitheses to the complexity of society.
"Everyone can do it, and it just puts smiles on peoples faces," he said. "They have big fun, and the more people there are the more fun it is."
Working through one of Gallavan's mazes is an adventure. Field of vision is limited to the plastic panels surrounding the participant, and it's a constant mental dance of memorization and strategy to navigate through the disorienting homogeneity of turns and dead ends.
Maybe it's the sheer simplicity of the concept that makes the experience so alluring.
Gallavan said he hopes to keep building mazes for the next five or 10 years.
"My dream is to build one in a nice warm climate," Gallavan said with a chuckle, "and maybe just operate a fun park. Probably 'till I croak. Who knows?"
For more information on Amaze Ventures, visit http://www.amazenmazes.com.
Hank Shell can be reached at 970-887-3334 ext. 19610.
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