Colorful lights flash, music booms and people go flying by overhead. The doors to Urban Air Adventure Park in Laurel are open, and owners Taiwo and Isaiah Bolarinwa are working hard to get the word out.
After seeing his daughter’s face light up in awe when she visited her first trampoline park three years ago, Taiwo has worked toward opening his own indoor trampoline park. He and Isaiah decided to invest in the Texas-based Urban Air Adventure Park franchise, as it offered more entertainment options — from trampolines and climbing walls to a rope course and go-karts — all under one roof. The question was then where?
The company provided demographics and the Laurel area was listed as a potential market. Finding the right structure was the next challenge as it required a large space with high ceilings.
“This was an abandoned warehouse for eight years,” said Taiwo, gesturing to the large facility on Baltimore Avenue across from Centre of Laurel that needed some work done before the various stations could be constructed. While most of the space is filled — with trampolines, a warrior course, a ropes course, the sky rider, climbing walls and more — there is still plenty of room for the brothers to install other attractions, too.
“We plan to offer go-karts and bowling,” Taiwo said. A large room with two smaller rooms is also slated to become a laser tag area.
“We just need the resources,” Taiwo said, of the future attractions. “COVID has been devastating. All the enhancements went out the window.”
The attraction was delayed because of COVID restrictions for several months, Taiwo said. The brothers, originally from Nigeria, did not let the setbacks deter them.
“Like any other business, what do you do?” Taiwo said. “The cable company calls you for your bill. Your landlord. You find a way to continue.”
Hand-sanitizer stations were installed throughout the center. Staff were trained not only on how to properly use the various equipment, but how to sanitize and clean everything, with regularly scheduled cleanings throughout the day enforced. Every night, the facility and equipment are sprayed with a sanitizer that dries by morning.
“We use what was recommended by the franchise,” Taiwo said. “We do as much as we can ... so people don’t get sick. We do it right.”
Now open, the center, which has a capacity for 600, can only host 100. People must register online and masks are required on all the attractions. As it is a large facility, social distancing can be easily kept and monitored.
“This is not common. The space is very big. With the pandemic, you can social distance,” Isaiah said. “This is very good for the youth and everybody.”
Tracy Neal, of Bowie, said she both enjoyed and felt safe during her first visit to Urban Air.
“We’ll be back,” Neal said, noting everybody was wearing masks. “It’s unbelievable. We don’t have anything else like this in the area. I’m loving it.”
The facility also offers several party rooms and a small cafe. The franchise, Taiwo said, is designing a program where students can come and do their lessons under supervision at Urban Air, have lunch and use the equipment during their breaks and after school. While the Laurel Urban Air is not quite ready to offer that service, Taiwo is hoping to have it available soon.
“Before COVID, I was, ‘Oh man, I’ve got to see if I can open one of these.’ Children are able to play, able to jump,” Taiwo said, as he nodded greetings to arriving families. “People are getting to know us. Business is slowly picking up.”
Urban Air is Taiwo’s first business. He is a CPA by trade and Isaiah is a nurse, but the brothers are determined to make Urban Air a success.
“COVID is so new, no body knows what is really going on,” Taiwo said. “We will just follow the information we are given and do what we have to do to move forward.”
Both brothers admitted, however, that there was one thing that needed to be done pronto that might help business.
“That ‘coming soon’ sign has to come down,” Taiwo said, laughing. “We’re open.”