OCEANSIDE — Ed Gonsalves, owner of Oceanside Pier Bait Shop, said this summer has been the busiest ever. He said there is a flood of visitors stopping in at the bait shop, and after hours hundreds continue to gather on the pier.
While the scenic beaches and great restaurants draw most visitors, another pull for after-hours crowds is Pokéstop hot spots in Oceanside, which include the bait shop.
“At night there are hundreds, I would say thousands on the pier,” Gonsalves said. “It’s been my craziest summer. I hope it continues. We’ve been closing the door on people (when we shut down for the night), that’s how busy we’ve been.”
The California Welcome Center, which houses Visit Oceanside, is well aware of the Pokémon Go phenomenon. The welcome center now has a “Pokémon players welcome” sign on its door, after staff found out it is a Pokéstop location.
Pokémon Go is a mobile game application that encourages players who are called “trainers” to walk around town to find and capture tools, and build an army of Pokémon to battle rival teams in gym locations. The game mixes the imaginary Pokémon world with real-time Google maps.
As a bit of background, players gains strength by building their army of Pokémon, and gaining “experience points.”
Pokéstops and gyms are real life locations where gamers can capture Pokémon or battle, and Oceanside is rich with them.
Michelle Martini-Brown, Visit Oceanside business development manager, demonstrated how to capture a Pokémon at the welcome center. She has also written a blog on Oceanside’s hot spots, which include the pier and mission.
Martini-Brown said staff and volunteers first caught on that the welcome center was a Pokéstop when they noticed people gathered outside looking at their cell phones.
“Pokéstops are placed at almost every tourist stop and some even offer additional information when you tap on the name,” Martini-Brown said.
She added that she even learned about offbeat public art and unique historical facts in Oceanside by playing.
Locations of Pokéstops and gyms are deemed by the game’s creators, with a courtesy notice to be respectful of locations and whether they welcome gamers.
On Oceanside Pier it did not take long to notice people with their eyes glued to their phones catching Pokémon. James Dozier, of Moreno Valley, was there with his daughters. He said he got into gaming to spend more time with family and to get out and exercise.
Dozier was wearing a red Pokémon shirt, which identifies him as a member of Team Valor. He said his older daughter Trinity is on Team Mystic, which adds an element of healthy competition.
Team Valor, Team Mystic and Team Instinct battle each other when they get to a gym location, such as Ruby’s Diner at the end of the pier.
In brief, if you arrive at a gym and a like team member is there you can train your Pokémon for future battles.
If a rival team trainer is at a gym, and you are have reached playing level 5, you can go into battle with your army of Pokémon. A team can claim they are in charge of a gym, and team players can leave a Pokémon there to guard it.
Cerina DeSouza, Visit Oceanside director of marketing and communications, said Pokémon Go gaming has really been a boon to the tourist industry.
Gonsalves said the Pokémon craze brings a nice crowd of families, middle-age adults and kids to Oceanside’s pier and downtown. He added he does not know the direct impact, but estimates his business is up 10 percent from last year.