The City Council of the South King County city voted to boot the game after hundreds of players swarmed the Des Moines waterfront.
It used to be squid and fish people were trying to catch late at night on the pier in Des Moines. But when the frenzy became about imaginary creatures — those from Pokémon Go — the trouble began.
People are flocking to the South King County city’s marina and beach park, which are home to Pokéstops, Pokégyms and a plethora of the digital creatures themselves, of course.
“We’re talking 150, 200 people down at the marina, and we’re talking at night,” said Sgt. Doug Jenkins of the Des Moines Police Department.
“It’s been a drain on the police resources. People are driving in there after hours,” Jenkins said. “It’s noise-related, they’re leaving their garbage around. There are complaints that they’re smoking marijuana and drinking.”
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First, the city hired extra security for the marina to help manage crowds after dark.
Then, the City Council held a meeting.
Harbor master Joe Dusenbury explained the game to the council.
“The game is actually played like a lot of the games I watch my grandkids play. It’s usually some imaginary creature beating up another imaginary creature. That is accomplished at Pokégyms, gyms as in gymnasium,” Dusenbury said, noting gym locations.
“So that’s what you see: Large crowds of young people — well, people that are younger than me wandering around and staring at their phones. What they’re really looking for is they want to capture the Pokémon creatures that pop up randomly around this area.”
He said more augmented-reality games are likely to sprout up after Pokémon’s success.
“This is not the end, this is just the beginning,” Dusenbury said. “It’s going to be around for a long time. I was hoping it would just fade away.”
At least the game got people moving, he said.
“If you want to look at in a positive way, it’s an activity-based game,” Dusenbury said. “They’ve succeeded in getting kids off the couch and down to the marina.”
City Councilmember Jeremy Nutting took a dim view of Pokémon Go.
“It is not helping at all except for congestion in the beach park … and taxing our police force that’s already taxed, taxing our marina staff that’s already taxed to the gill. …”
He worried that local businesses were being put out by the hunt for digital creatures, and said he wanted local businesses, like the waterfront farmers market, to be Des Moines’ main draw.
“As far as I’m concerned, we can’t be a destination for Pokémon,” Nutting said, slightly mispronouncing the popular brand.
The council agreed, voting unanimously to request to “opt out” of Pokémon Go at all public places and parks in Des Moines.
So far, the request hasn’t worked.
“We’ve not had a response one way or another. There’s a process where you use their website and you request to opt out. The City Attorney’s Office fulfilled that request, but we’ve not had a formal response,” said Michael Matthias, interim city manager.
“We clearly understand that’s in the discretion of this company.”