By Daniel Smithson
A former University of Florida basketball standout has taken his hobby and flipped it into a family-fun entertainment option in downtown Gainesville.
Patric Young, who played center for the Gators from 2010 to 2014, is a primary investor in America’s Escape Game, an escape-room attraction which lets participants find clues, strategize and solve them to try to “escape” the room.
America’s Escape Game, at 239 W. University Ave. near the Florida Theater, held its ribbon-cutting ceremony Friday.
Young said he was inspired to open an escape room in Gainesville during his time playing basketball professionally in Europe. He said going to escape rooms was a huge part of team building and recreational activity in Greece.
He tried one for the first time, he said, when he was in high school.
“I probably did over 30 escape rooms while in Greece and then my business partner and I thought an escape room would kill it in Gainesville,” Young said in a phone interview Thursday. “Then, the dream just totally became a reality.”
The Gainesville location offers three rooms: Asylum, Crisis at 1600, and Pandemic.
The Asylum Room is set in the “Oakridge Lunatic Asylum,” a fictional shell of an asylum where a fire “killed five of Dr. Rutger’s patients,” but the bodies were never recovered. Participants must enter the remains of the asylum and unlock the secrets of Dr. Rutger’s “horrifying deeds,” according to the escape room’s website.
The Crisis at 1600 room is designed to look like the Oval Office. Inside the room, a missile war has been launched. To save the world, participants must solve clues to disarm the missiles, Young said.
Pandemic, as its name suggests, involves a world in which a pandemic called “The Red Death” is spreading and participants must work to find the virus’ cure inside a former secret lab.
All of the rooms’ clues must be solved within an hour to win.
For Young, opening the escape room is just a business venture, he said.
His end goal is to get back into basketball after a series of injuries during his European career. He’s currently a free agent, he said.
Young, who averaged about nine points and six rebounds a game while playing at Florida, went undrafted in 2014 after playing a big role in the 2013-14 season that ended in a Final Four appearance and a perfect SEC record.
Young signed with the New Orleans Pelicans after graduating, but it didn’t work out with the team. He signed with Turkey’s Galatasaray team in December 2014.
Young joked he had more dunks in six months with the Turkish team than he did in his entire career at Florida.
While playing for Greek’s Olympiacos Piraeus basketball team the next year, Young suffered a torn ACL, which eventually led to infection after surgery, Young said.
He’s been working to come back to basketball, his dream, since then, he said.
“People often ask me that — whether I’ll return to basketball, but many of them don’t know how bad my injuries were,” he said. “I’m lucky to be walking right now or even have my leg.
“I’m just putting it in God’s hands and I have faith that if I keep putting in the work, it could work out, and hopefully, I’ll motivate some people along the way.”
Young’s escape room is open from 1:30 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday, noon to midnight Friday and Saturday, and 1 p.m. to 10 p.m. on Sundays. It’s closed Monday.
Guests can park in the parking garage behind the building, he said. Tickets are $34.99.
America’s Escape Game joins Escape Key, 3501 SW 2nd Ave. at the Creekside Mall, and UFO Video, 605 NW 53rd Ave., as Gainesville’s current escape-room attractions.
All In Adventures, another escape room, is listed as “coming soon” on the Oaks Mall website.