David O'Connor says there are very few people, if any, who don't feel compelled to jump around on a trampoline when they see one. It's a fun magnet that can get groups of kids giggling, and transport a middle-aged woman back to childhood within a bounce.
O'Connor, under the business entity D&S Entertainment, plans on opening an indoor trampoline facility in Northborough.
Called the Sky Zone, the franchise features an "all-trampoline walled playing court." With wall to wall trampolines, the facility also incorporates basketball and dodgeball into the bouncy good time.
On Tuesday, the ZBA approved a variance to allow a Sky Zone to lease a unit at 30 Forbes Rd. Since the building sits in an industrial zone (near the Berlin line close to the Solomon Pond Mall), O'Connor needed a variance to build a commercial/entertainment based business there.
"They [the ZBA] came full of questions, but approved it," said O'Connor.
Coming from a background in financial services, insurance in particular, O'Connor had been looking to open a family entertainment center for years. After researching options for more than seven years, he was so impressed with the Sky Zone franchise, he ditched the suit and tie, and committed to the endeavor.
The investment, he said, will require in the vicinity of $1.5 million.
"As soon as I looked at the Sky Zone in Hyde Park, I knew," said O'Connor. "Literally, before I even left the place, I had them send me a package."
O'Connor said that by comparison, Sky Zone was more appealing than other options because a trampoline park is open to a wider range of ages, as well as booking options. While most entertainment centers, he said, focus on age groups up through 9 years old, booking mostly birthday parties, Sky Zone will draw kids through seniors, and can be booked for team building, fundraisers and parties.
"When I went to Hyde Park's Sky Zone," he said, "the first thing I noticed was that I saw everything from toddlers to grandparents, from people who looked athletic to people who looked far from athletic ... and everyone was having fun. This is a wonderful thing for teenagers as well. It's unique enough that it will draw across the board."
O'Connor plans to sign the lease soon with the building owners (Cabot), begin the building permit process, and start construction. He hope for the Northborough Sky Zone to be open "late within the first quarter of next year."
Some have questioned safety issues after hearing about Sky Zone coming to town, said O'Connor. He addressed the issue thoroughly; with a background in insurance, he is well aware of the injury statistics caused by sports and entertainment.
He stressed that people make the mistake of comparing an indoor trampoline park, particularly Sky Zone, to a backyard trampoline.
Injuries that occur on backyard trampolines parallel the types and number of injuries that occur in hockey, football and gymnastics. Indoor trampoline parks, however, are much safer, and more in line with a risk similar to baseball, basketball and soccer, said O'Connor.
"Sky Zone makes it a point to limit the capacity," said O'Connor. "And there are rules; some might think there are too many rules. And there is active monitoring. These monitors will be people who have had previous jobs such as lifeguards or camp counselors who have had a responsibility of monitoring activity and behavior.
"Most trampoline injuries," O'Connor continued, "come from falling off or through the tramopline, or because there are seven kids crammed onto one. We take away the ability to fall off, or fall through, and the capacity is limited."
Editor's note: For Simpsons fans, you may remember when Homer Simpson came across a "trambompoline" for sale in the paper. He bought it, and decided to make it a profit venture in his backyard. Here is what ensued.