As a family man, Troy Alstead saw a problem. Children’s birthday parties were plenty of fun for kids, but the same couldn’t be said for the parents. There is only so much cardboard pizza, tiny plastic chairs, and fluorescent lighting an adult can handle.
As a businessman, and former chief operating officer at Starbucks, he saw an opportunity.
Why couldn’t children and adults both have a good time at birthday parties? Shouldn’t there be a place for a community where everyone can come together to have a good time regardless of their age?
On business trips overseas, Alstead had seen an inspiring concept: multi-purpose centers that brought communities together to experience a variety of activities and entertainment under one roof. If this idea could work abroad, why not also in Gig Harbor?
While age-inclusive entertainment was the central idea, another lifelong passion of Alstead’s would come to play an equally important role in the development of this concept: protecting and caring for our oceans.
From this surprising combination, Ocean5 was born.
Listen to Ocean5 general manager Sarah Michael on the latest episode of Making It in the South Sound!
Since opening in the spring of 2018, Ocean5 has welcomed thousands of visitors through its doors. The entertainment center draws guests not only from Gig Harbor, but from all over the Puget Sound, for bowling, arcade games, laser tag, live music, restaurant offerings, and much more.
Ocean5 has truly become a choose-your-own-adventure experience of entertainment, while never straying far from its goal of protecting the ocean.
The name Ocean5 comes from the fact that there are five oceans on the planet. Similarly, the on-site restaurant, Table 47, is named in honor of Gig Harbor being located on the 47th parallel geographically.
The connection to the ocean and passion for sustainable business practices goes much further than a name.
General manager Sarah Michael shares that a big part of the environmental effort at Ocean5 is to “educate quietly by the practices we do as a company.” This mentality can be found in every area of how the business is run: from the building’s architecture itself, to product sourcing, to events and education.
The Ocean5 complex is a LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Silver certified building. Inside, it houses many unique and ingenious details that incorporate sustainability into everyday operations. The building uses creative “solar tubes” to fill the space with natural light during the daytime and reduce electricity use. Rather than a traditional free fall and mechanical arm method for re-setting pins on the bowling alleys, Ocean5 uses a recent technology called a string pinsetter that is much more energy efficient.
When it comes to sourcing products for the center, whether for the restaurant’s kitchen or arcade prizes, sustainability is also a high priority. Table 47 takes a hyper-local approach to ingredients whenever possible. This can be seen reflected in its bar menu full of local, sustainably produced spirits.
Ocean5 has found a way to make sustainability not just background noise, but part of the entertainment itself. It hosts educational series for kids featuring mascots that share lessons on good environmental practices. Events throughout the year such as bingo and trivia nights contribute proceeds to local organizations helping the ocean and environment.
Sustainability at Ocean5 is a concept that applies to more than just the planet.
“We also want to sustain our staff, and so we look at training and how we engage with our staff as also a practice of sustainability,” says Sarah Michael.
For many employees of Ocean5, it’s their first time entering the workforce. The goal, says Michael, is to retain these employees and grow their leadership and confidence until they potentially go to college, trade school, or enter another industry.
When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, Michael credits the company culture and values that were present from day one as a reason Ocean5 was able to survive. While it had to temporarily downsize its workforce to a small core team throughout the pandemic, it was able to re-hire 60 former employees upon reopening. Michael sees the culinary and kitchen staff as the biggest testament to success in sustainable staffing, as 90% of the same staff remained with Ocean5 throughout COVID. Ocean5 has emerged from the pandemic with an even stronger commitment to its employees, finding new ways to build leadership and take care of one another.
While Ocean5 may be a local leader in environmentally friendly business practices, it isn’t doing the work alone. Michael states that community partnerships play a key role in the business’s sustainability practices. This includes everything from sourcing ingredients from local farms to philanthropy events with environment-focused nonprofits. Additionally, its leadership expects environmental sustainability to be one of the next big issues facing businesses in the near future.
For businesses wondering how to even begin to think about sustainability, Michael says it doesn’t have to be overwhelming. She recommends starting with just a couple of changes that can make a difference rather than a complete overhaul. This can be as simple as encouraging staff to use reusable water bottles instead of single-use plastic, or participating in a company beach cleanup. And, as Ocean5 has done, building community relationships with organizations already doing the work, and seeing how you can help. You just might find the opportunities run as deep as the ocean.
This Member Feature story is part of a series by the Tacoma-Pierce County Chamber to promote stronger connections and increased engagement between the Chamber, its members, and the local business community. Member stories are non-promotional opportunities to share members' business stories with the community. If you are a Chamber member interested in being featured for a story, please contact Digital Marketing Manager Audrey Widner at firstname.lastname@example.org
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