Wilmington trampoline park bounces into action

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WILMINGTON, Del. (AP) — Stratosphere Trampoline Park couldn't have asked for better weather to kick off the opening of its 25,000-square-foot facility, the first of its kind in Delaware.

Another round of unseasonably cold, wet and dreary weather at the end of March meant local parents were once again looking for something indoors to do with their kids feeling cabin fever.

For a few hundred families, Stratosphere was the answer, as evidenced by the phalanx of kids — and more than a few adventurous parents — who jumped on the massive trampolines, dove head-first into a sea of soft foam cushions or navigated a zealous game of dodge ball.

"This has really been a great start," said Tony Uniatowski, general manager of Stratosphere, located on Wilmington's Riverfront in a warehouse-like space once part of the former Kahunaville nightclub. "We've got a lot to do here, and the great part is it's all physical activity."

Although the 25,000-square-foot facility is the only indoor trampoline park in the state, it won't be that way for long. Another company, Launch Delaware, is planning to open a 28,000-square-foot indoor trampoline park in June at the Interchange Business Park off Elkton Road.

Alison Barnhill of Wilmington brought her two daughters, Alaia and D'uana, after seeing a friend post a photo of the trampoline park on Instagram. While most parents were content to watch from the sidelines, Barnhill took in the new place headfirst — literally.

She waited her turn on the triple-lane runway of the Hubble Bubble, then jumped into the sea of foam cushioning while her girls looked on.

"I think it's pretty awesome," said Barnhill, who, like most people in the park, had worked up a sweat from all the jumping. "This beats putting a trampoline in my backyard."

With 12,000-square feet of trampoline space, the park can handle 180 jumpers every half an hour, Uniatowski said. The main arena offers the most bounce space and includes two tumbler tracks for those who want to get more air in their jumps.

Safety monitors, dressed in yellow-and-black referee uniforms, are heavily sprinkled throughout the area, making sure patrons adhere to the posted park rules, which include not running, crowding the trampoline space or doing more than one flip in the air at a time.

There's also an enclosed areas for dodge ball and a separate space with basketball nets, dubbed "aeroball." Uniatowski said there is talk of adding an outdoor zip line in the back as well as a miniature golf course.

Rae Whichard and her family drove up from Middletown to check out the park. The sweaty faces on her kids, as well as her husband, suggested the park more than delivered on its promise for indoor fun.

"It's old-school exercise — dodge ball, jumping, the stuff we used to do," she said, laughing.

The rise of these kind of trampoline parks is actually a resurgence of a trend popular in the late 1950s. Most of those parks eventually closed because of liability issues. But today's trampoline parks, aided by liability waivers required for participation, are a growing draw for kids and teens who like the chance to try something out of the mainstream.

"The industry is growing faster than anybody realized," said Uniatowski, adding that Stratosphere locations opened a year ago in Delmar, Md., and six months ago in Hainesport, N.J .

Joe Zay brought his daughter, Laiken, and her softball teammates Abby Mace, Jordan Morrison and Megan Johnson for something to do on a rainy day. The girls left suitably exhausted.

It's somewhere they'd definitely want to visit again, said the girls who live in Smyrna.

The girls had some advice for those expecting a leisurely time on the trampolines, perhaps like playing in a moon bounce. Maneuvering on the movable floor during dodge ball isn't as easy as it looks.

"It's definitely harder to throw when the floor is moving," Megan said.

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Information from: The News Journal of Wilmington, Del., http://www.delawareonline.com

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