Video gaming lounge and event space to celebrate grand opening in Fitzgerald neighborhood

Lance McGhee grew up with video games. Coming of age in the 1980s, he had the original Atari and ColecoVision gaming consoles at home. And he has fond memories of going to places like the old Michigan Fun Center on 8 Mile, pumping quarters into the arcade games there.

So imagine telling a grade school-aged Lance McGhee that he’d open his own arcade one day, and right here in his hometown, too.

That’s just what he’s done. A grand opening celebration for Playa Vs. Playa Gaming Lounge is scheduled for Tuesday, April 13.

“Playa Vs. Playa grew out of my passion for gaming. When I grew up, we had these places in the neighborhood. You used to have these places where you could go and test your mettle against the other kids,” he says.

McGhee doesn’t see places like that in the neighborhood anymore and he wanted to do something about it. So he opened Playa Vs. Playa in a building he owns in the Fitzgerald neighborhood, right on Wyoming Avenue in Detroit.

“You see everything going downtown but I want to see more things in the neighborhoods. That’s where I’m drawn,” McGhee says. “I want to go where there’s a need for these types of things.”

Playa Vs. Playa has been operating under a soft opening for the past year. Initially set to open with daily hours of operation, McGhee changed the business model amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. Playa Vs. Playa is now open for special events and rentals. That could change as restrictions on businesses and gatherings are lifted.

The lounge features gaming consoles that appeal to a range of generations, from the original Atari system to the highly coveted PS5. The hip hop- and comic book-themed space features murals on the walls and black lights that give it an arcade atmosphere.

On the path to opening Playa Vs. Playa, McGhee transformed a long-vacant building into a modern day gaming lounge, spending approximately $250,000 in renovations, he says. McGhee was awarded a $60,000 Motor City Match cash grant for the renovations; he would fund the rest.

“I remember first seeing the building and it was completely stripped. So to see what it is today is just awesome,” says Drew Lucco, Motor City Match program manager. “It’s really great to see a vacant building become so vibrant, to become a space where young people can go in a place that wasn’t available before.”

Playa Vs. Playa has already hosted events by a number of community organizations, including the Boys & Girls Club of Southeastern Michigan, COTS Detroit, and the Detroit Red Wings. The space is available for special events like birthday parties and tournaments, even music video shoots.

It’s a wide-ranging space. On April 23, Playa Vs. Playa will be showing the new Mortal Kombat movie and host a Mortal Kombat gaming tournament. That same day they’ll host a rap battle.

McGhee is excited about the Fitzgerald neighborhood, where he also owns the Storm Cigar & Hookah Lounge. And he would like to continue to grow the Playa Vs. Playa brand; officials from Highland Park are already in his ear about opening a location there, he says.

“Fitzgerald, Highland Park, Flint, Pontiac. These are the places that intrigue me. It’s all about where I can make the biggest impact,” McGhee says.

Playa Vs. Playa Gaming Lounge is located at 15850 Wyoming Ave. in Detroit. Information about event rentals can be found online.

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MJ Galbraith is Model D's development news editor. Follow him on Twitter @mikegalbraith.