Staff Photo: John Bohn Hayden McLeod, 16, opf Suwanee, throws a ball during a game of dodgeball played on large trampolines at Sky Zone, the Atlanta area's first indoor 3-D trampoline park in Suwanee. Other trampoline options include basketball, traditional trampoline activities as well an arcade area.
SUWANEE -- Dylan Sapp, 16, of Suwanee and seven of his friends decided to get together for one last hurrah before returning to school after winter break. What did they decide to do for the day? Jump, flip and bounce at Suwanee's first indoor trampoline park, Sky Zone.
The center, which opened Dec. 17, offers 32,000 square-feet of trampoline inspired activities, including dodgeball, basketball dunking and a foam pit.
"We came out here to have fun for day," Sapp said with a smile, waiting to return to the dodgeball game. "I heard about it from one of my friends. We'll definitely come back."
And that's exactly what owner Jeff Cole was going for when he opened the park -- fun.
"I wanted to create this because of all of the fun and excitement," he said. "My kids really loved it in California when we went. I was always looking for something else to do ... I was in the corporate world for 20 years and I really wanted to do my own thing."
When Cole heard that Sky Zone was offering franchises, he pounced on the opportunity. Last August, Cole moved his wife, Jennifer, and two children from Northern California to Suwanee to open this location. They found a building suitable for the indoor trampolines and began construction in June.
"I stopped working April of last year (managing a copy company) and I became Mr. Mom at home," he said. "When my children dragged me to (the Sky Zone in California), I thought it was really cool but I didn't know if it would last, so I did my research. Sky Zone started in 2004 in Las Vegas and has had great success. When they opened up for franchising last year, I jumped on the opportunity to move to Atlanta and be the first."
And he has had great success since the doors opened. On average, Sky Zone accommodates 1,000 jumpers a day with 1,400 attendees being the busiest day so far.
Most of the visitors hear about the trampoline park by word of mouth.
Christie Dannenmiller of Suwanee and Caroline Mullikin of Cumming brought their children to Sky Zone because they heard about it through some mutual friends.
"When we heard about Sky Zone from a friend of ours, I went online and checked it out. It looked like a really cool place, so I promised my kids that they could come before school started," Dannenmiller said. "It's not what I had pictured it to be. When I looked online, I thought the whole thing was nets wall-to-wall, but this is awesome."
Mullikin added, "It's good for older kids too. Our kids have out grown the indoor play places, so this is perfect."
There are many fathers toting along with their children too, like Jeff Hudgins of Cumming. He and his three children had so much fun the first time they came, they returned a week later.
"They loved it, I loved it, so we came back. It's good exercise for them," he said. "It beats playing Xbox all the time. I've never seen anything like this before."
Hudgins said later with a laugh, "I wish I would of come up with the idea myself years ago."
Sky Zone also offers birthday party packages -- up to 27 party goers, exercise classes for children and adults, an arcade area, a Parent Zone with free wi-fi and multiple screens to watch their children on the trampolines, and dodgeball tournaments.
Worried about what your children eat? Don't fret. The park serves healthy snacks like hummus and grilled chicken, plus they are sensitive to those with food allergies.
The park may sound like all fun and games, but the company takes safety very seriously. There are human monitors scattered throughout the park with a ratio of one monitor to 20 jumpers. Those watching over the bouncing bodies make sure participants are abiding to the rules: no socks, no flips, one jumper to each trampoline, etc.
"There's an art to monitoring to keep it fun, but safety is our top priority," Cole said. "We're closed on Mondays to examine the entire place, plus we do daily checks."
The smaller children are separated from the bigger kids too. He doesn't want someone to crush another in an accidental fall.
Besides that, it's pretty simple. People can reserve a spot for 30-minute to one hour jump slots online. When they come to the park, they check in, rent special trampoline shoes -- or they can stay barefoot, but shoes are preferred -- and jump to their heart's content.
"It's a great place to go for kids to get some physical activity for an hour until they're exhausted," Cole said. "It's fun family time too. I even come here with my kids."
For more information about Sky Zone, visit atlanta.skyzonesports.com.