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The Student News Site of San Francisco State University

Golden Gate Xpress

The Student News Site of San Francisco State University

Golden Gate Xpress

Gator athletes crack open Stonestown’s new escape room

After hosting the grand opening ceremony, SFSU athletes moved from the field to Stonestown’s newest avenue of entertainment
Luke Cramer
Alli the Gator and Burton Heiss moments before cutting the ceremonial ribbon at the opening of Escapology at Stonestown on Feb. 29, 2024. (Luke Cramer/Golden Gate Xpress)

A little after 5 p.m. on February 29, gathered in the bustling second-floor lobby of Stonestown Galleria, San Francisco State University’s top athletes and coaches eagerly watched as Alli the Gator and Escapology’s CEO Burton Heiss wielded comically large scissors to cut a red ribbon marking the opening of the city’s latest escape room.

The opening came after Heiss displayed a $5,000 check made out to SFSU Hope Crisis Fund, a fund managed by the university to assist students who otherwise could not afford necessities such as tuition, transportation, and living expenses.

“We wanted to do something meaningful to support the students and the community,” Heiss said. “It was at the suggestion of SF State, and we thought it was a great cause.” 

Following the ceremonies, the athletes excitedly awaited their turns to take on one of the eight escape rooms the Escapology location has to offer.

“We wanted to do something fun that invites people in to see what we’re about. We plan to be here for a long time. Let’s have a little fun,” Heiss said.

Teamwork also became an important theme of the grand opening, especially for David Thompson, the head coach of track and field. Players looked forward to working together to beat the escape rooms. 

“The opportunity to work together to find clues and use people’s strengths to figure out who’s good at what is fun,” Thompson said. “We’re competitive and I’m highly confident in our skillset.” 

Aiden Goodrich, a Broadcast and Electronic Communication Arts student and member of the women’s volleyball team, also believed teamwork would be vital to the evening.

“There’s a few that I feel like have certain abilities that will do great on this, and we’re already great together,” Goodrich said.

The Front of Escapologyis pictured before the ceremony on Feb. 29, 2024. (Luke Cramer/Golden Gate Xpress) (Luke Cramer)

Once the athletes and their coaches left their respective rooms, the lobby grew quiet, with occasional hurrahs of victory heard through the doors as the students solved puzzles and advanced toward the end. Without the distraction of the crowd, the lobby was noticeably new, and its mysterious decorations of clocks, top hats, Victorian-style chairs, and a wallpaper displaying the image of a bookshelf made it feel as though you could be in line for a Sherlock Holmes rollercoaster.

The representatives of the soccer team, positioned in the murder mystery-themed room, emerged victorious for the evening.

“It was really, really fun,” said Dohan, a member of the quickest team. “Each person contributed. It made us work together. Each person had a say.” 

Goodrich and the group from the volleyball team just barely trailed the soccer team.

“It was really fun working together and figuring everything out as a team. It was super exciting that we did it within the 60 minutes,” Goodrich said.

Stonestown’s newest business is bound to attract many students, given its proximity to campus.

“It’s a natural fit — college students are a great demographic for us,” Heiss said. It gives them more stuff to do with their friends and serves as a great customer for us,” said Heiss 

Stonestown appears to be striving for a new, activity-based pool of businesses such as Round1 Bowling and Arcade — which will replace Nordstrom — as retail closures such as the Macy’s in Union Square signify a decline in malls’ dependence on shopping.

“I think the escape room will attract students because now there are more activities to do besides shop,” Dohan said.

Goodrich seemed to agree.

“Most students don’t have a car and live near campus, so this gives them another activity besides going to the movies or walking around the mall,” Goodrich said. 

“It’s important when you open a new location to connect with the community,” Heiss said. “Stonestown has a unique community that can often feel more like a community center than a mall.”

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About the Contributor
Luke Cramer, Staff Reporter
Luke Cramer is a reporter for the Golden Gate Express. He is majoring in Journalism and Political Science. He is from Santa Monica California and now lives in San Francisco. During his free time, he enjoys playing golf and the guitar.

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