Several Downtown Boise businesses have seen a surge in foot traffic over the past week as Pokemon Go players hit the streets in search of digital pocket monsters.
“It’s great that people are thinking of Downtown as a destination,” said City Peanut Shop owner Dan Balluff, who has talked to a few customers who told him they’d never been Downtown. “I’ve seen them exploring parks and areas they wouldn’t normally go.”
Pokemon Go players are also learning a little about local landmarks. Public art, groups, schools and businesses are featured at “PokeStops,” sites where players pick up “Poke Balls” needed to catch Pokemon.
One of the places gamers are stopping to fuel up while out and about is Pie Hole.
“We’ve definitely seen an increase in our business, especially late at night,” said Logan Finch, assistant supervisor at Pie Hole and a member of Pokemon Go Team Valor. “It’s getting people out of the house. It’s actually doing a lot more good than harm.”
Pie Hole and some other local businesses, including Pizza Pie Cafe, had hoped to be added to the game as “PokeStops” to draw in even more customers. But they said a flood of requests to developer Niantic stymied their efforts.
“They’ve really been overwhelmed,” said Kris Lindsay, who handles sales/marketing for Pizza Pie Cafe on Broadway Avenue. “We have submitted a request.”
In the meantime, the cafe hopes to attract gamers with a Pokemon Go giveaway. On July 30, they’ll draw a name for a gift basket that has Uber rides, a portable charger and water bottle.
Rediscovered Books has a “Pokemon Trainers Welcome” sign in the window.
“It’s been nothing but positive for us,” said co-owner Bruce DeLaney, noting that people have caught Pokemon inside the store. “Anything that gets people out and about is good.”
Local gamers are finding each other through social media, including Facebook pages Pokemon Go Boise (more than 422 members) and Pokemon Go: Idaho (more than 1,908 members). Some Meetup groups, including one called Fun People in their 20s, are holding Pokemon Go meetups.
Smartphone-clutching players all over the country have experienced unintended consequences.
A Wyoming woman discovered a body in the Big Wind River, and a pair of Kuna teens reported seeing a possible arson suspect.
Two 20-something California men survived a fall off an ocean bluff. A pair of Florida teens playing the game escaped injury after a spooked homeowner shot at their vehicle.
Last week, Ada County Dispatch received about a dozen reports of “suspicious behavior” that turned out to be Pokemon Go players, said Patrick Orr, a spokesman for the Ada County Sheriff’s Office.
“None of these have led to criminal investigations or tickets from our agency,” he said.
In a tweet last week, Boise police reminded Pokemon Go players not “to trespass on private property or be in parks after dark.” The glow in Capitol Park at night in recent days is as much from the cellphones of dozens of gamers as it is from Capitol lights.
“I have not heard of any continued reports of problems associated with the Pokemon Go game,” Boise Police spokeswoman Haley Williams said. She said she was unaware of anyone being cited.
Parks officials ask only that gamers watch where they are going and try not to trudge through areas that could damage vegetation, particularly along the river.
“Be aware that all parks are closed at sundown and don’t reopen until sunrise,” Boise Parks & Recreation Director Doug Holloway said.
Idaho Power tweeted a warning last week about staying away from electrical substations. That wasn’t due to any particular incident, said spokesman Brad Bowling.
“We just think it’s good to remind people,” Bowling said. “Our security people have definitely noticed increased foot traffic [around facilities] but no one is going into areas that are off-limits.”