Maybe it was a leap, Dusten Estes says, to spend $600,000 on customized trampolines.
But he thinks it will pay off.
Estes’s first venture, Flight Trampoline Park, opened in Hartford, Conn., eight months ago. Profits were so good, its three owners say, that they decided to expand rapidly along the East Coast.
Next up: Springfield.
The indoor trampoline park, with more than 14,000 square feet — that's three basketball courts — of jumping space, will open Feb. 28.
In addition to trampoline-fueled obstacle courses and basketball and dodge ball courts, the 26,000-square-foot space will host birthday parties, sleepovers and fitness classes. One hour of jumping costs $13. Parties start at $220, while sleepovers cost $850.
“People think, oh, it’s a bounce house,” Estes said. “But it’s a bounce house on steroids.”
The company’s owners have invested about $1.5 million in the Virginia location, according to co-founder Cameron Gentry. They hope to be profitable by the end of the year.
The trio, which also includes Dustin Ward, got its start on the West Coast a dozen years ago with a Little Caesars Pizza franchise in Portland. They later bought a Five Guys franchise in Spokane, Wash., which they sold to finance the new trampoline park.
“The three of us have been in business a long time,” Gentry said. “We just kind of thought, let’s do something new.”
There is a big need, he said, for indoor family spaces in Fairfax County. The group had hoped to open the Springfield location months ago, but securing the proper permits took longer than expected.
“You can’t beat this market as far as density and affluency,” Gentry said. “There is a huge need for family-friendly activities.”
The most difficult part, he said, was finding a building with high-enough ceilings. Trampoline rules call for 22 feet of unobstructed space, while most industrial spaces cap off at 18 feet. Gentry and his team eventually signed a 10-year lease on a former furniture warehouse in Springfield.
“Landlords are a bit skeptical to lock up a lease for that long,” Gentry said. “But it was important for us to have a space right next to the freeway so a lot of people would see it.”
The company has plans to open trampoline parks in Pittsburgh and Albany in coming months. In 2015, it hopes to expand further, with locations in Atlanta, Buffalo, San Antonio and one in Loudoun County (although the team is still narrowing its options between Chantilly and Ashburn).
“This is a place where the whole family can be together,” Gentry said.
In Springfield, many of the location’s 50 employees have already been hired. Court monitors — lifeguards of sorts — will be on hand to watch jumpers, and trampolines will be cleaned and sanitized every night, Gentry said. The space will also hold school and church fundraisers — which can bring in up to $2,000 per night for the beneficiaries, he added.
“The bottom line is finding a niche,” Gentry said. “And I think we’ve done that here.”