Pennington Station brings virtual reality entertainment to Joplin

Local News

"We want to be the Chick-fil-A of experiences."

JOPLIN, Mo. — Pennington Station, located at 518 Virginia Ave. in Joplin, is a virtual destination for all ages. The open floorplan features separate areas for various virtual reality games with seating for guests to watch the action happen. This creates socially distanced entertainment throughout parties.

“It all starts with popping a headset on,” said co-owner Ben McNelly.

About Pennington Station

Owners, husband and wife Ben and Whitney McNelly, want Pennington Station to be a feel-good destination — an experience that you can’t get anywhere else.

“If they are looking for something that is family friendly and laidback but they won’t forget for a long time, they don’t need to go to Branson to find that special experience. Come here and they can be transported anywhere,” said Ben McNelly.

McNelly is a game developer and uses the rest of the large, historical building as a studio for himself and others. Some of the featured games at Pennington Station have been created by McNelly himself. Pennington Station comes out with new virtual reality experiences monthly while also staying up to date with the latest games.

“We’ll always have the latest and greatest bleeding edge stuff here,” said McNelly.

Currently, the stations include a VR flight simulator — like controlling an X-Wing in the Star Wars universe, racing with a motorized seat, VR Minecraft, mixed reality VR gaming with a green screen to show the player in the environment, console gaming and more.

One of the best things about Pennington Station is that it provides accessible entertainment.

McNelly recalls a guest with muscular dystrophy that was in a wheelchair. He says that the guest was able to access every station.

“It’s all handicapable accessible,” he said.

Not only is it accessible, this type of entertainment is for all ages.

“It’s not just for middle schoolers or high schoolers or people that are athletic. Literally grandma and grandpa can sit in a chair and do it,” said McNelly.

Pennington Station is even developing “floating islands,” where you can relax in a hanging chair with a headset and soundproof headphones on. Guests can be on the beach, by a fire or “on the edge of the galaxy.” All you have to do is pick your destination.

The McNellys wanted to create a space to nurture the culture of gaming and game development.

“Youth need access to that. Like the internet, it’s a fundamental right,” said McNelly.

Pennington Station will do more than just gaming. It will also offer classes on subjects such as computer building, small technology and 3D printing.

“These might be the next developers I’m hiring in five or ten years, so I absolutely want to foster that environment… That could be you up there someday,” McNelly said, gesturing to the loft area used for game developing.

The virtual reality destination also wants to be an educational platform. Teachers can use specific VR experiences for educational purposes, like visiting a monument or touring the human anatomy.

“Yes, this is for fun… Underneath it is a broader scope of education and teaching that we hope comes through,” said McNelly.

Pennington Station can be booked for educational purposes, youth group outings, birthday parties, team building exercises and more.

To book an event, call 417-719-1152 or send an email to ben@penningtonstation.com. Online booking via Pennington Station’s website will launch in April.

Hours and prices

Pennington Station currently has flexible hours. It opens at 4 p.m. on weekdays, 3 p.m. on Saturday and is closed on Sunday. It stays open as late as there are guests — even later on weekends.

“If there’s people here playing, we’ll stay open even if it’s until the next morning,” said McNelly.

“We are all about doing what the community wants,” said Whitney McNelly.

The prices range from $5 to $45. For example, 30 minutes solo at a VR station costs $20, $45 for a group of up to four.

The virtual reality arcade also offers chips, energy drinks, soda and water.

To stay up to date on the latest Pennington Station entertainment, visit their Facebook page.

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