In the quest to catch 'em all, players of the viral Pokémon Go app are causing staff at Utah Valley Hospital some concern.
It started after the hospital in Provo, which is undergoing a large scale hospital replacement project, became aware late last week of the four Pokéstops — real world locations where players can get virtual items to aid in their Poké-catching quest — on the campus. The stops, a large statue inside the hospital atrium, a time capsule in the main entrance, a statue outside by the fountain and another near the helipad have the potential to be trouble for patients, or, in the case of the helipad, be dangerous to the players.
“If there are extra people who are here not for a patient care reason, then that can cause problems,” said Janet Frank, the hospital’s spokesperson.
With the limited parking, combined with the general chaos of construction, the Pokéstops inside the building are especially worrisome. Frank said if there are a handful of people playing the game outside, it’s fine, but they want people to be respectful of the property and the hospital’s mission. She’s asking for people to access the Pokéstops without entering the hospital.
“If there was a big group of people, then that could be very concerning,” Frank said.
At Timpanogos Regional Hospital in Orem, the hospital has asked for people to stay out of patient care areas in order to protect patient safety and privacy.
Pokémon Go uses GPS and augmented reality for people to track down Pokémon, so that when one appears, users get a view of the creatures through images from their phone’s camera, whether it’s catching a Bulbasaur in their front yard or a Rattata in the grocery store.
In downtown Provo, the handful of Pokéstops along University Avenue and Center Street have led crowds to amass and stroll through the area. There’s even several Pokémon Gyms, located at landmarks like the Provo City Center Temple, where teams of people can battle or train their Pokémon.
For some businesses, the introduction of the game late last week has caused a boom.
Jason Peterson, manager of the game and comics store Dragon’s Keep in downtown Provo, said the local business has seen more customers in the past several days.
“When it was first released, there were just throngs of people walking through downtown Provo,” he said. “Most who walked by stopped in.”
It helps that the business links in with the game, as it has held Pokémon tournaments and sells related cards and manga.
Saturday night, Peterson said a manager set a lure (which is marked on a map users can see and draws in more Pokémon to the area) on the business, which is also a Pokéstop and located near a Pokémon Gym, and posted about it on its Facebook page.
“Everything we have done with the game so far is because we are fans too and we want to have fun with everybody else,” Peterson said. “That’s why we’re here, we provide a place for people to come and enjoy their hobbies.”
But another Pokéstop, placed on the mural at Guru’s Cafe on Center Street in Provo, has been bringing people to the area outside of the business, but not necessarily inside as customers.
On Saturday night, manager Kat Webb said almost every table was full and there were many people outside.
“Some of them will get food and then go outside,” Webb said.
She’s seen businesses with signs that say people can catch Pokémon inside, but only if they buy food from the restaurant. With lures placed in the area around the business, she’s seen people stopping by outside to get items.
“Check out the mural and grab some sweet potato fries,” Webb said.
Monday morning, Daisy Milman was sitting on a bench on Center Street in Provo with her children, 8-year-old Imogen and 6-year-old Keller Hill. They’re already avid geocachers, Milman said, so the game was a natural transition for them.
They didn’t have to walk far from their home to get to downtown Provo, but once they got there, she was already starting to see how getting more crowds could benefit area businesses.
“They just asked if we can get ice cream, so I think it will work,” Milman said.
But the game hasn’t come without its own bugs, most technical, but some with real world complications. Lt. Craig Martinez, with the Orem Police Department, said there haven’t been any cases of trespassing reported to the police yet, but that people should remain aware of when parks close and keep an eye on the clock so juveniles don’t break curfews.
He said people can remain safe while playing the game by traveling together and staying aware.
“Watch where you’re going,” Martinez said. “I’ve seen kids riding on longboards on the side of the streets on their phones. I’d hate for someone to get hurt while playing this game.”
Early Sunday morning, the Provo City Library had hundreds of unexpected visitors as crowds flocked to the lawns after lures were placed in the area. Players, some bringing battery packs and charging stations, were there for hours playing the game.
Gene Nelson, the library’s director, said the only problem the crowds have brought thus far is the trash Pokémon trainers left behind, which took staff 15 minutes to clean up Monday morning. For now, the library is keeping an eye on things.
“This is a group that certainly doesn’t have any ill will at all, they are just chasing these Pokémons,” Nelson said.
People have come into the library from the lawn, but mostly to get a sip of water or use the restrooms. But the majority of the crowd is coming in after the library is closed.
“We haven’t had a situation like this before, to be honest,” Nelson said.
The lawn doesn’t have a curfew, but if the crowds start to bring problems, that might change, he said.