Businessman bets on bouncing

Entrepreneur Morey Chaplick invests millions to bring Surrey its first trampoline park

General manager Cody O’Neil will be steering the Sky Zone ship when it opens Jan. 30 in north Surrey.

SURREY — New year’s quiz: What has 26,000 square feet, 12,000 mechanical springs, trampolines on the walls, a Surrey address, and 144 people flopping around in mid-air?

Nothing right now, actually, but that’ll change come Jan. 30. That’s the date earmarked for the opening of Sky Zone Surrey, the city’s first trampoline park.

What’s a trampoline park? Well, it’s a park – made out of trampolines. A wall-to-wall checkerboard of trampolines in a building the size of an airplane hangar.

As wild and as crazy as this sounds, make no mistake – this is one serious business and Sky Zone Surrey was no minor undertaking.

The 109th facility to open under the “Sky Zone” umbrella – other Sky Zones operate throughout the U.S. and in Mexico, Australia and eastern Canada – Sky Zone Surrey began its germination process when eventual franchise owner Morey Chaplick took his son to a packed Sky Zone in Ontario.

“Three years ago,” says Chaplick, a noted Canadian entrepreneur probably best known as the founder of Vespa Canada and video game provider Hip Interactive, “somebody said I should check out what was going on in my old office.”

That old office, which once housed Vespas, was now teeming with people and trampolines. Chaplick remembers taking his son there and walking straight into what he calls a cacophony.

“It was crazy, it was loud, and it was packed. But what stuck with me most were the smiles. Everybody was smiling.”

A few years later in 2014, the Chaplick family moved from Ontario to B.C.

But the Sky Zone memory remained. Discovering that no Canadian franchise existed west of Winnipeg, Chaplick put in an exploratory phone call. Then more calls to every current franchisee in the country. And then he went for an interview at the company’s Los Angeles headquarters.

“I was shocked at the amount of up-front money involved,” he says, freely admitting that the whole thing to date has run into “the millions. That’s millions, with an s.”

Even finding a venue proved difficult, he said.

“We needed 30,000 square feet of space. We needed lots of distance between support poles and a minimum 20-foot ceiling. And we needed parking – lots of parking.”

Eventually, Chaplick, with the assistance of Sky Zone HQ, found a solution – a leased space in a gargantuan 42,000-square-foot at 11125 124th St. in Surrey.

And the race was on. Last July, Chaplick hired Cody O’Neil as GM. An entrepreneur himself with a penchant for e-commerce design and marketing, O’Neil was fresh off a stint running a resort in Tofino. But it was his experience jump-starting an indoor skate park in Ontario that weighed so heavily in his favour.

The ramp-up continued in mid-December when $800,000 worth of trampoline and safety equipment arrived from Sky Zone’s manufacturing wing in California. Just a few weeks later, the company held a one-day job fair at nearby Aria Banquet Hall. (Jobs are still available. You can email O’Neil at cody.oneil@skyzone.com.)

Today, the future Sky Zone Surrey is one busy place. Most of the “zones” (including one specifically for toddlers) are generally complete. The ramps and the passages between the zones are unfinished but functional. The area destined for concessions and party rooms currently makes a temporary storage space for tools, parts, and supplies.

And everywhere you see construction workers doing their thing.

“Sky Zone is built on a culture of safety,” says Chaplick when asked if prospective customers need worry about potential injury.

Part of that culture of safety comes in the form of “court monitors” – employees whose sole job is to watch over the proceedings and ensure “jumpers” behave responsibly and remain amongst others of their own age, size and experience level.

Moreover, says O’Neil, underneath the network of trampolines will be a web of failsafe netting. Ultimately, he says, “the incident rate for injuries at a Sky Zone is equivalent to that of a golf course.”

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