Summertime always brings challenges to parents: What to get the kids to do that doesn’t involve sitting around playing video games? Vacations — even to theme parks — can be expensive and, of course, don’t last all summer long.
But Rob and Lisa Cannon think they may have the solution. The co-owners of the Bounce! Trampoline Sports facility at 21 Prindle Lane in Danbury are putting the finishing touches on the Thrillz High Flying Adventure Park in the same building. Consisting of eight themed “challenge” areas partly inspired by the “American Ninja Warrior” TV series — with rope courses, climbing walls, and the like — Thrillz offers daredevils of all ages an extra kick: No harnesses. Fall from one of the obstacles and you land some 16 feet later on a full-size airbag like stuntmen use, with what they say is no recoil or, most significantly, chance of injury.
It is, Rob Cannon believes, a one-of-a-kind entertainment option; other similar facilities are generally used for stuntman training.
“What we’re looking to do is to create a world-class entertainment center that can draw people from as far away as an hour, hour and a half,” Cannon said in the still-under-construction Thrillz area, whose 24,000 square feet together with Bounce! makes for a total of 70,000 square feet.
Admissions will be separate, he said, to keep the revenue streams between the trampoline franchise and the wholly-owned Thrillz distinct from each other; a discount will probably be offered to customers looking to experience both spaces. For Thrillz, admission will likely be $12 for a half hour and $18 for 60 minutes, with pricing options for longer stays also available.
Cannon, who said he got “burned out” in his former career as a hedge fund manager, and his wife opened Bounce! in 2016. Although business has been brisk, he said, when the space next door became available he began envisioning something more than just adding more trampolines.
Seeing videos of motorcyclists zooming off of ramps to reach great heights before landing without injury on professional airbags led him to sketch out an idea for offering the same concept indoors.
Through his attorneys he put together a design and engineering team whose experience goes well beyond ball pits and bungee slingshots (not that the Cannons denigrate the features at Bounce! in any way). That group incorporates performance rigger and safety consultant Jason Clemence, whose background includes stints with Cirque du Soleil, Billy Joel and Alicia Keys; sound engineer Rob Treloan, now on tour with Queen Latifah; and manager and in-house graphic designer Joel Earley, a onetime Ringling Brothers employee.
From concept to completion took about nine months, Cannon estimated.
“We talked in depth about what they wanted to do and how it could be rigged,” Clemence said. “Safety is always first with something like this.”
But, he noted, there’s nothing exactly “like this” anywhere else. “This has more airbags of this caliber in one place than anywhere else in the world,” he declared.
Clemence also said the space should be looked at as not just an activity center, but as something with the potential to build character.
“These can be difficult challenges to complete,” he said. “There’s no safety harness and nobody holding you. But if you fall — and you will — you can get up and try it again. And when you do complete the challenge, you can say you’ve done it yourself. That’s really important for kids.”
Lisa Cannon noted that the airbags are what she believes to be the highest quality available — again, part of the effort to guarantee safety. “We could probably get something like these for 20 percent of the price, but that’s not what we’re here for,” she said.
She added that the Thrillz areas — consisting of such themes as Shark Tank, Fire Pit, and “our signature,” a Pinball theme wherein customers can compete to land on areas that help them rack up points — are constructed in a modular fashion so that they can be rotated in and out.
“We want it to be somewhere that, every couple of times you’re here, looks different,” Earley said.
The modular approach will also help franchisees, Rob Cannon said. “We can send our Outer Space one somewhere else and trade in something from them, to keep both areas fresh,” he explained.
Cannon estimated the cost of the Danbury Thrillz at about $1.6 million, and said that franchisees would likely spend $1.8 million to get all in. The Danbury operation is expected to open by Aug. 1, and he hopes to start inviting potential franchisees in by mid-autumn.
Both Cannons underscored that, unlike Bounce!, Thrillz is not designed to be only child’s play. In addition to a large lounge area with seating for more than 50 and nine TV screens, the new facility is designed to host adventurers of all ages. Lisa Cannon said that running the entire eight-airbag course could be a useful team-building exercise for employees.
In keeping with the “entertainment destination” concept, the combined facility will include a 35-machine arcade and 360-degree virtual reality machine along with laser tag and a total of 10 party rooms that can accommodate children and adults alike.
Although the Thrillz lounge area will feature food beyond the cookies-and-chips options in Bounce!, alcohol will not be served.
After all: Safety first.