With his school uniform flying untucked, 6-year-old Dallas Jowers sprinted across a big black trampoline that curved gently up a wall.
He took a dozen steps, slowing as the angle increased, then flung his body toward the top, arms outstretched, trying to grab hold and hang.
He missed by a few inches and slid, in slow motion, down the trampoline -- where he rolled over, splayed on his back, arms still out, until he caught his breath.
"I'm having fun jumping and doing flips and, and all of it," he said a minute later at the foam pit, cheeks flushed. "It's definitely more fun than going to the park."
Jowers is one of the first patrons at Chattanooga's first-ever trampoline center, which opened Friday at 1810 Chestnut St. in the Southside. The Jump Park, just across from Finley Stadium, includes 20,000 square feet of wall-to-wall trampolines.
The main jumping section is filled with squares of flat trampolines and trampolines that curve up walls. Then there's a trampoline dodge ball court in a netted area in the back, and Jowers' favorite feature: a line of giant foam pits that jumpers can flip, swing on a rope or leap into.
The brand-new building still smells like new paint and fresh plastic, and is covered with swatches of blue and yellow foam to help protect jumpers, who pay between $8 and $12 per hour to jump.
The jumping area is dotted with bean bags and benches where parents can sit and watch, and the upstairs of the center is an adult-focused game room with pingpong, pool, darts and plush leather chairs -- all next to a line of windows overlooking the jumping area.
The centerpiece of the upstairs game room is a 27-foot-long, 10-foot-wide soccer pool table. It has the same rules as pool, but players use their feet and shoot size 3 soccer balls painted like pool balls. Downstairs, there's a cafe with a full lunch menu, everything from salads to sandwiches.
General manager Scott Proesch said the park's first few days have been busy, with a few hundred people visiting throughout the first weekend.
"It's been terrific," he said. "For being just word of mouth, it's been a tremendous response. We couldn't be happier to have the amount of people."
It's the first stage of a three-part project by Chattanooga developer John Wise. Next door, Wise is building a new headquarters for Chattanooga Brewing Co. The beer-makers are currently housed in a brewery on the North Shore, but plan to move into the new building by April.
The new brewery will allow co-founder Mark Marcum to brew five times more beer than in the current location, he said. When everything is up and running, he'll offer brewery tours and open a tasting room with some food service.
In addition to the trampoline park and the brewery, a 10-lane boutique bowling center that'll share a wall with the trampoline park is on track to open in the fall, Proesch said.
Southside Lanes will feature a full bar and a restaurant with seating for 75 people. The bowling center will connect with the trampoline park's upstairs game room, which will stay open as late as the bar and restaurant. Alcohol will be allowed in the upstairs game room, but not downstairs in the jumping area.
Proesch currently employs 15 people and plans to hire another 10 as business starts hopping. He hopes the attractions together will turn into a place for the whole family to come and play.
While the Jump Park is the first trampoline park in Chattanooga, it won't be the last. Out-of-town developer Case Lawrence is raising his 10th trampoline park near Hamilton Place mall and expects to be open by May. He'll have about 15,000 square feet of trampolines at Superfly Trampoline Park, as well as extra features like an aerial obstacle course and trapeze over large foam pits.
Lawrence has opened all of his 10 parks across the nation in the last three years, he said, which is a reflection of the industry's rapidly growing popularity. Building on that growth, Proesch also is planning to open a second trampoline park in Ooltewah sometime this year, although he hasn't yet picked a location. That could bump Chattanooga's trampoline park count up to three by the end of the year.
For now, one park is plenty for 13-year-old Conner Jones, who flipped, jumped and dashed his way from trampoline to trampoline Tuesday.
"It's action-packed and fast-paced," he said. It's more fun than a movie, he added.
He jumps as he talks.
Contact staff writer Shelly Bradbury at 423-757-6525 or email@example.com.
Shelly Bradbury covers police and crime in Chattanooga and Hamilton County for the Times Free Press. She's been with the paper since 2012, working first as an intern and then as a business reporter. She is from Houghton, New York, and graduated from Huntington University in Huntington, Indiana, with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and minor in management. Before moving to Tennessee, Shelly previously interned with The Goshen News, The Sandusky Register and The Mint ...