Falcon Heights, Minn. -- Apparently “Pokemon Go” players have posed enough of a public safety risk at the Minnesota State Fairgrounds for fair officials to remove their “battlegrounds” for good.
Over the past year or two, the Falcon Heights fairgrounds were the local ground zero for “Pokemon” group battles, where players would gather to fight monsters too tough to be fought alone.
The game’s creator, San Francisco-based Niantic Inc., had positioned numerous stops and “gyms” — gathering places for players — across the fairgrounds, resulting in dozens if not hundreds of visits a day. Even over the winter, players gathered in groups as large as 100 to fight the virtual monsters, which could only be seen on their phones.
But fighting and driving don’t mix, State Fair officials said.
“There were some crashes. One car drove off a retaining wall. Just the sheer irresponsibility of drivers, running stop signs, parking in the middle of the street and leaving their car. … To be looking down all the time, it was just getting crazy. Especially on the big days, where they dropped a lot of gems,” said State Fair Police Chief Paul Paulos, who’s had to familiarize himself with “Pokemon” lingo to properly police the fairgrounds.
“The gamers overall were polite people. But at the same time, they were really creating an unsafe environment,” Paulos added.
The incidents didn’t result in any injuries, Paulos noted. But with 300 events going on at the fairgrounds annually, and a plethora of pedestrians and dog-walkers, State Fair officials felt the “Pokemon” traffic wasn’t worth it.
And so they released an official statement this month saying they had asked Niantic to remove all gyms and stops from their property. A State Fair spokeswoman said that the company has since done so.
The fairgrounds effort wasn’t the only front against distracted driving this month. Last week, Gov. Tim Walz signed “hands-free” cellphone legislation, which prohibits holding a cellphone while driving, with an exception for emergency communications.
Battling Pokemon would likely not be considered an emergency under the bill.