Monday, September 15, 2014

Exclusive: New Chuck E. Cheese CEO whittles down DFW headquarters search

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Tom Leverton was named one of this year's top golf innovators of the year, according to Golf Magazine. Now, Leverton is leading CEC Entertainment, which is better known as Chuck E. Cheese.
When Tom Leverton walked into CEC Entertainment's Irving headquarters in Juneas Chuck E. Cheese's new boss, he also walked into a company in the midst of a two-year real estate search for a new corporate office.

And, it's an opportunity to help rebrand CEC Entertainment, the parent company of Chuck E. Cheese's, the chain of 577 pizza and entertainment centers across the country.

"We have a very traditional office space today, with different groups in different rings of the building," Leverton told the Dallas Business Journal, in an exclusive interview. "There are a lot of doors and long hallways."

Leverton wants to shake things up for the company's 300 employees, weaving the Chuck E. Cheese brand heavily into a new headquarters that showcases a youth-focused entertainment business with high ceilings and large workspaces.

"This is a very similar concept as TopGolf, but our guests are 20 to 30 years younger," Leverton told me. "We want to focus on the entertainment and the hospitality side of the business. We want it to be high-energy, fun and an exciting experience."

Right now, the company is leasing about 76,000 square feet of office space at 4441 W. Airport Fwy. in Irving, as the building's single tenant. CEC Entertainment is looking for about 55,000 square feet of space for its corporate employees, which Leverton says will help foster communication.

Even though the company has whittled down its list of potential headquarters cities to three in North Texas — Dallas, Irving and Coppell — there's wide variety of potential sites in the region, Leverton said.

"Having been an executive in Dallas since 1997, there are a lot of fantastic buildings and areas in Dallas-Fort Worth ... that would make very interesting and exciting spaces," he added.

CEC Entertainment doesn't expect to go into a new build-to-suit building, but an existing structure, either as a single tenant or a tenant in a multitenant building, he said. Real estate sources say JLL is helping the company in its search.
Leverton says he doesn't have a deadline for making a real estate decision, but added, "The sooner, the better."