When Doug Huckbody decided he wanted a ruined helicopter, he asked his son for help.
Darek Huckbody, a Realtor with BlueCoast Realty Corp. and former Black Hawk helicopter pilot, told him he’d make some calls.
“We found him a crashed helicopter down in Texas [in a scrapyard],” said Darek, a Wilmington resident whose father lives in Illinois.
The wrecked aircraft serves as a prop in a business the Huckbody family opened in an 11,000-square-foot facility in Illinois in October: Battle House laser tag arena.
Darek served as a kind of military adviser for that Battle House, but this year, he plans to open a Battle House arena of his own in Wilmington, intending to sign a five-year lease for a 10,000-square-foot warehouse building at Wilmington International Airport, if county officials approve the Special Use Permit required.
Approval of the SUP, which will be considered by the New Hanover County Planning Board at its meeting March 5, is necessary for a business categorized as indoor recreation to open on property zoned airport industrial (AI).
Darek, who got his residential real estate license after he left the military in 2010, said finding the kind of space he wanted in northern New Hanover County wasn’t an easy task. He said he thinks the airport property he's considering, 1817-A Hall Drive, could be a good fit if all the details get worked out.
“It’s a great location because everybody knows where the airport is,” he said. “For tourists who come to the area, there’s signs all through the city pointing them to the airport.”
The Huckbody family’s mission to start a laser tag business began because of a wedding in 2010. Darek’s sister was getting married and wanted to find a fun activity for guests beforehand. “It was a completely new and exciting experience for everyone involved,” wrote Doug Huckbody on the Battle House website.
But while the flagship Battle House took several years, the purchase of property and more intense construction before its grand opening last year, the Wilmington facility will be a scaled-down version that could serve as an example for potential Battle House franchises in the future, said Darek, who plans to own and operate the local arena with his wife, Lindsey Huckbody, a physician’s assistant.
He said he estimates he will hire between eight and 10 Battle House employees in the off-season and possibly another six to 12 during the summer months, depending on how busy the Wilmington arena gets. Customers are expected to include families, groups of players, birthday parties and corporate events to participate in missions reminiscent of the video game "Call of Duty." Safety will be a priority, Darek said, just as it is in the Illinois Battle House. Players will have to be 12 years old or older, with the possibillity of some exceptions for birthday party groups, he said.
"It's really geared toward having fun," Darek said.
Several members of the Huckbody family are military veterans, including Darek, who served in Fort Bragg’s 82nd Airborne Division and completed two 13-month-long deployments to Afghanistan.