Jeneé Osterheldt

At the new PowerPlay, crashing and bashing my cares away

Twelve-year-old Sarah Coffman (center) got to bump into her friends at a birthday party last week at PowerPlay North.
Twelve-year-old Sarah Coffman (center) got to bump into her friends at a birthday party last week at PowerPlay North. The Kansas City Star

The one-week-to-go frenzy is decking the malls. We’re making our lists, checking them twice, and the feeling it brings isn’t always nice.

Before your holiday spirit wanes and you find yourself pulling out that plastic smile to get through the days, go play. I’m serious. We’re supposed to be merry, spreading love and hanging out with family. Stressing over gifts and decorations and dinner? Don’t do it. Take a break.

On a Saturday, while everyone was shopping, I went to PowerPlay. The entertainment center that has long been in Shawnee quietly opened in the Northland this fall, and it’s ripe for bumper cars, laser tag and the like.

PowerPlay North is tailor-made for the elementary school set, with a miniature roller coaster, Highway 66 Bowling and the Kids Zone. But teens and adults are there to play, too. The wait for Air Hockey is a few games deep, and when the Go-Kart racetrack opens next year, it’s going to be a wild ride.

For us, it was all about the bumper cars and laser maze. Let me be honest. Both attractions look like they were designed for the Lollipop Guild. But that’s all right. The target audience is children. And frankly, the whole point of bumper cars is to bump. I’m not scared to crash into a safely cushioned kid.

In close quarters, bouncing off one another came easy. Seeing 6-year-olds power toward you with all of the aggression and excitement they can muster is a must-experience. The shock on their faces when you openly steer into their attack for a head-on collision: priceless.

If you want something a little more hard-core, head to WhirlyBall (think lacrosse meets bumper cars) at the Shawnee location. My 18-year-old “little sister” had just as much fun as me rushing into the itty-bitty bumper car committee. We even let them trap us in the middle of the room, going bump-crazy. I’m telling you, happy kids are the cure-all for holiday blues.

Laser Maze? That’s an entirely different craze. You’re in a dark room, lit with a spider web of neon-green lasers. The goal is to get in and out of the room without touching a single beam of light, breaking the laser. Basically, it’s the game of life.

I tried my best to work my way over and through the green lines. It was not as sexy as Catherine Zeta-Jones made it seem in “Entrapment.” There was no Sean Connery to walk me through it.

Instead, I had the 18-year-old. After she broke two, she said we should make a new goal of destroying them all. And this is why you should keep teens around. They teach you how to see the victory in a loss.

That’s the beauty of PowerPlay, period. When you’re surrounded by the future, you aren’t thinking about the past. You’re simply enjoying the gift of the present.

To reach Jeneé Osterheldt, call 816-234-4380 or email “Like” her page on Facebook and never miss a column. Follow her on Twitter @jeneeinkc.

PowerPlay North

Where: N.W. Barry Road and Highway 169. (The south location is at 13110 W. 62nd Terrace in Shawnee.)

Holiday hours: 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Thursday, 10 a.m. to midnight Friday and Saturday; 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday-Tuesday; 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Christmas Eve. Closed on Christmas; regular hours resume after.

Price: No cost to enter. You buy a Powercard for a buck and load it with points. A round of bumper cars, for example, costs 14 points — that’s about $3.50. You can put 100 points on your card for $20.

Go to for more info.