Level Up Games opens in Eagan

Community gaming store offers on-site tournaments

It’s been a lot fun and games for Eagan’s Tony Leitner this fall.

Sure it’s been some work too, but his passions have gone from fantasy to reality after Level Up Games opened Sept. 29 at 1004 Diffley Road in Eagan.

Leitner said his community gaming store “carries all the nerd-themed products like board games, video games, card games, toys and comics.”

One aspect that perhaps sets them apart from other stores is the fact some customers stay for hours.

About a third of the store, approximately 1,200 square feet, is dedicated to a modular gaming room with a capacity of up to 60 people.

“We are trying to bring the social aspect of gaming back,” Leitner said. “Online it’s become less cordial. We want to bring them back face-to-face and make some true friends.”

Every night of the week, and weekend afternoons as well, Level Up Games is home to some kind of gaming event.

They have a family game night were customers can try board games along with tournaments for Super Smash Bros., Star Wars Destiny, Pokémon and Magic: The Gathering.

If the games are a bit overwhelming, Level Up Games often hosts learn-to-play nights, and when there aren’t tournaments, customers are encourage to try out the games, Leitner said.

About half of the events cost between $5 and $20, and half are free. Leitner said they’ve been at capacity for several gaming nights since Level Up Games opened.

“And it’s all ages,” he said. “People from all walks of life are coming in here. And people are making friends for life here. They might not have met otherwise.”

He said the board game industry is evolving in several directions.

“There’s such a variety now,” Leitner said. “I think people are longing to interact together again and do something fun. It’s a whole new element to parties at home.”

They still sell plenty of electronic games.

“I grew up playing video games, that’s my thing,” Leitner said. “We carry both new and retro games going back to the original Nintendo and everything in between. People are crazy for those retro games right now. They want to relive their childhood with their own children.”

Card games such as Pokémon and Magic: The Gathering are as popular as ever even with the ability to play similar games online, he said.

This is a level up for Leitner. He’s owned Level Up Games in South St. Paul for seven years. He’s an Eagan resident and noticed an opportunity in the community and demographics.

“I saw an opening here,’ Leitner said. “We learned a lot from the first store. This one is easier to get through and shop. We made it more efficient and there’s room for growth.”

He was a bit worried he was going to steal some of his own customers from South St. Paul by opening a new store, but during opening weekend he said 75 percent of the faces were new.

“New people are coming in all the time,” Leitner said. “It’s good to see.”