by Lori Chandler Pruitt
“Personally, jumping on a trampoline gives you freedom – there’s joy in jumping through the air,” says David Van Vurst, owner/operations manager at Sky Zone Trampoline Park in Kennesaw, GA. A Sky Zone is opening in Hoover this month.
There are several trampoline parks in the Birmingham area. Trampoline parks came along in the early 2000s in Las Vegas when Rick Platt, founder of Sky Zone, wanted to begin a new sport that involved obstacles and trampolines. He built the park next to a skate shop, and kids would come to use the park. Then, others came to just jump. The concept evolved from there and grew more and more popular, adding more features and activities.
While the average age of jumpers is ages 10 to 18, there are set activities for toddlers all the way to adults, with adult dodge ball tournaments, exercise and other events. Depending on the facility, there are exercise classes, a foam zone, which is jumping into a pit of large foam pieces, jousting, rock climbing, exercise classes, open jump, black light jumping at night, and separate areas for different ages. The facilities also host corporate and group events, birthdays and more.
“I think parents enjoy bringing their children because it does not look as difficult but it is very active, and kids often aren’t as active these days,” says Rene Cain, managing partner of Steel City Jump Park, a locally owned and operated park located inside Phoenix Theatres-The Edge 12 in the Crestwood Festival shopping center in Irondale. “It’s active entertainment that everyone can enjoy.”
While it’s great for kids and adults to have fun and get exercise, no activity is risk-free. Trampoline parks are no exception – in fact, there is concern about safety, owners say. Each park has set rules and each participant is informed about them, but not everyone wants to follow them. Owners say most injuries generally happen when rules are broken. Others may not enforce the rules as much, leading to problems, Van Vurst says.
Van Vurst is a founding member of the International Association of Trampoline Parks, with more than 280 members. IATP says about five to six such parks open across the U.S. each month, and that safety is paramount. “We enforce the highest of standards,” he says. “I’d rather return someone’s money and have them go if they are putting themselves and others at risk of injury. You must follow the rules.”
Safety is why many parks have staff to man each station and to watch people carefully. “We are only trying to keep everyone safe, but not everyone follows the rules, and that is when injuries can occur,” Cain says. Rules such as no double bouncing, no diving into a foam pit, no flipping and landing on the bottom or feet only are regularly broken in many parks, so staff is on hand at each station to work with the children and parents. “We have safety meetings each week and we watch,” Cain says. “We man each station at all times, no matter how many children are there.”
Parents can help in a big way to reduce injuries by insisting their children follow the rules, and supervise/participate with their children to set the example for safe play in the park. Parents can take their children at a less busy time to help them get used to the park and the activities, and for younger children, make sure the park has a designated area that keeps them separate from bigger kids, experts say.
Parks also have websites that state their rules, and because participants must fill out waivers as well that are available online, it is a good place to start researching what parks offer and what they expect.
What’s next? The Birmingham area has for a long time had great places where kids can go to be active – from Pump it Up, where kids can bounce on inflatables, and Adventure Park of Grants Mill, among others. Trampoline parks are in full gear now, but the entertainment industry continues to evolve to offer fun, active family entertainment.
“You’re always innovating,” Van Vurst says. “You also sometimes have no idea what innovations will really take off.”
Lori Pruitt is associate editor of Birmingham Parent.