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The Latest: Speed dating

Finding a match doesn't have to happen at a bar anymore

 by Katie Ruark  published on Thursday, March 24, 2005

Steve Sweeny, 28, who works in the marketing department for Envest Strategies, said he is a frequenter of 8-Minute Dating when he can make it.   
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Shaina Levee / STATE PRESS MAGAZINE
Steve Sweeny, 28, who works in the marketing department for Envest Strategies, said he is a frequenter of 8-Minute Dating when he can make it.
 

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As attractive, young people arrive at the suite in the Glendale Arena, they stroll around and buy drinks from the bar.

The men and women start to mingle, but not too long before Becky Park really gets things going.

Park is organizing a night of speed dating, a new, easy way to meet singles of the same age and interests. The "dates" last between five and eight minutes and are a quick way for men and women to decide if they're interested.

Tonight's event is being held in an isolated area at the Glendale Arena during an Arizona Sting lacrosse game. There are 24 participants with equal amounts of men and women, who sit at tables and get to know each other as fast as they can.

"Ring," sounds the buzzer, and all of the men move to the next table. The couples talk about hometowns, favorite music and professions.

In the Valley, both 8-Minute Dating, the company organizing tonight's event, and 15 First Dates are working to mingle singles in a hurry.

"I felt Arizona needed something for the singles crowd," says 15 First Dates founder Jamie Marks. "Not everyone is into going to the bars. It's a great way to meet people."

15 First Dates is a Scottsdale-based company that Marks began about a year ago. She developed a Web site after fruitless efforts to find speed dating in the area. She said she has been very excited about the response.

Eight Minute Dating is a division of Match Events, based in Boston. It reaches 55 cities in The United States and Canada.

Events are held at bars and restaurants or other social places, but are often in isolated areas.

According to Park, closing off the area puts less pressure on the participants.

"After you get over the first few minutes of the first date thinking, "What do I do?" "What do I say?" it's just comfortable," Park says. "Everybody's single, you're not in a bar, it's not a dark corner. It's just more comfortable because everyone has the same reason to be here."

Marks says speed dating has become a socially acceptable way to meet singles.

"Back in the day, there used to be such a stigma about Internet dating in general," Marks says. "But now, with busy schedules and the need to have friends with you at bars, that has gone away. If you're not doing it, there's something wrong with you."

Though speed dating is not aimed at college students, both Park and Marks say it's a possibility.

"I would love to see it go that way," Park says. "Not everyone at ASU and not everyone that is under 25 is out at the bar every Friday. They're working, they're going to school. So I would love to find a location and target that group, as well."

At Friday's speed dating, participants score the people they meet on a card. The scores are then tallied up to find matches. Each participant goes online and enters the scores. They are then matched up as a friend, someone they would like to have a second date with, or someone they would consider a business associate.

Only exact matches will be given contact information by either company.

"Unless it is a perfect match, it is null and void for both people," Marks says. "There is no way they can contact you; it's completely safe."

Not even the participants' names are given out right away. Everyone at the event is identified with their first name and a three-digit number.

After four dates, Parks interrupts the singles and announces that it's time for a break. They spend 15 minutes watching the start of the Sting game, talking and wandering around, before finishing their dates.

"It's been really fun," says one participant "I thought it might be kind of awkward, but there were definitely a lot of things to talk about and there weren't too many awkward pauses."

She says she found at least one person she would like to meet again.

But not every participant feels the same. Another woman says she wasn't overly excited about the men she met.

"We just didn't have a lot in common," she says.

Another says she is much more likely to have made friends at the event than found a love interest.

"I met some women I liked," she says.

Reach the reporter at mailto:katherine.ruark@asu.edu.



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