- Associated Press - Sunday, January 19, 2014

CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. (AP) - It’s a bird, it’s a plane, it’s - Meagan Reaves during her twice-weekly aerobics class.

The 21-year-old bounces about six feet in the air in a room where the whole floor is made of square trampolines, connected to form a massive grid. She sometimes runs from one square to the next, jumping from trampoline to trampoline, and even bounces off some trampolines mounted at 60-degree angles on the walls.

“It’s a workout, but it doesn’t feel like a workout,” she said. “We run up the walls and it kind of feels like flying. I feel like a kid when I do it.”

Reaves attends Skyrobics classes at the SkyZone Indoor Trampoline Park in Jackson, Tenn., but Chattanooga residents soon will have a chance to join her in the air. Three trampoline parks are slated to open in the Chattanooga region this year, part of a national wave of bounding growth in an industry that’s got millions of Americans bouncing.

“It’s a whole lot of fun,” Reaves said. “Everyone should try it.”

Trampoline parks are a brand-new form of family entertainment center. The facilities usually include rooms of wall-to-wall trampolines that customers pay to jump, flip and bounce on. Many offer a slew of extra activities, ranging from trampoline dodgeball courts to aerial obstacle courses over giant foam pits.

The trampoline parks planned for Chattanooga will run the gamut. The first is set to open on Chattanooga’s Southside in February. Built by local developer John Wise, Jump Park Chattanooga will include 20,000 square feet of trampolines, a trampoline dodgeball court, a foam pit and an upstairs full of table games like pingpong, shuffleboard and darts.

Jump Park Chattanooga will also include a cafe and party rooms and will be next door to a 10-lane boutique bowling alley that will feature a full bar and restaurant.

“It will really be a one-stop shop for families to come out,” said general manager Scott Proesch. Wise plans to add a second location in Ooltewah by the end of summer.

Between those openings, out-of-town developer Case Lawrence’s trampoline park is slated to open in May near Hamilton Place mall. The 30,000-square-foot building will be half-full with trampolines, Lawrence said. The center will also feature an aerial obstacle course and trapeze where customers can hone their skills above giant foam pits.

Superfly Trampoline Park will be Lawrence’s 10th and largest park. He hopes to serve the entire region, pulling customers from North Georgia, Cleveland and Chattanooga.

“Internally we’re calling it a ‘supercenter,’” Lawrence said. “It won’t just be trampolines; we’ll have all kinds of attractions.”

Going from zero trampoline parks in Chattanooga to three in the same year might seem like a huge leap, but it’s actually a reflection of the enormous popularity the industry has gained in the past five years.

“There are about 150 trampoline parks nationwide, and that’s basically tripled in the last three years,” Proesch said.

Lawrence, who’s considered a national trampoline park expert, built his first park three years ago. His second park is 2 years old, and the rest were built during the past 18 months.

“That’s how new the industry is,” Lawrence said, laughing.

It’s so new that the American Society for Testing and Materials — which issues industry standards for everything from roller coasters to pulley safety — only just created a set of standards for trampoline parks in 2013.

“What was happening is that a lot of these trampoline parks were looking to get permits in different states, and the states had no regulations,” said Len Morrissey, ASTM director of committee operations.

He oversaw a group of industry experts who pulled together guidelines on trampoline design, operation, maintenance, inspection and repairs. It’s an important step for an industry that makes every customer sign an in-depth, complicated legal waiver before heading to the trampolines.

As trampoline parks popped up across the nation, so did high-profile injuries, including a 22-year-old in Utah who was paralyzed below the neck after jumping into a foam pit at a trampoline park. Some of the injured say the parks aren’t doing enough to protect customers.

At Jump Park Chattanooga, Proesch said he’ll keep a staff of “referees” out on the trampolines at all times to enforce rules and help prevent injuries.

“The first thing that customers need to know is that trampolining is an active sport,” he said. “We need to make sure everyone stays within their limits. Know your boundaries. If you can’t do flips, don’t flip.”

While the rate of trampoline park injuries is hard to estimate, one trampoline park owner in Illinois estimates about 2 of every 1,000 customers is injured while jumping. That’s less than other sports, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. About 21 people per 1,000 are injured while playing soccer.

Out at the SkyZone in Jackson, Reaves said she’s never been hurt while jumping, although she’s seen other people end up with scrapes or twisted ankles. Still, she said she’s too scared to try a flip into the foam pits.

“I just jump in there like a cannonball,” she said.

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