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Might as well jump

  • By Mark Gordon
  • | 10:00 a.m. November 28, 2014
  • | 2 Free Articles Remaining!
  • Manatee-Sarasota
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Armed with more than $700,000, Paul Orsino, owner of 10 Dunkin Donuts stores in and around Buffalo, N.Y., was ready to jump right in to the burgeoning trampoline-gym industry in the Sarasota-Manatee market.

Orsino's obstacle: No building could accommodate what he needed to open a Sky Zone Indoor Trampoline Park, a Los Angeles-based franchise company with 80 locations worldwide. His must-have list included a non-industrial location near Interstate 75; at least 30,000 square feet of space with 20-foot high ceilings; and specifically placed columns for the company's patented all-trampoline walled playing courts.

“You could get a large building and pile this stuff in,” says Orsino, “but it would not be the layout we need.”

So Orsino decided newer is better. Through a contact with Ian Black Real Estate he met Sarasota developer Fred Starling, who got behind the project. Now the Starling Group is building a specific-tenant complex for SkyZone, and signed Orsino to a 10-year lease. Starling says his firm has invested at least $4 million in the project, including land and construction. That's in addition to Orsino's investment.
The project, which joins a RaceTrac gas station under construction down the road, is also another piece of the post-recession recovery. Says Starling: “It's a good sign for what's happening in the economy.”

East of I-75 off Bee Ridge Road, the building could be open by the end of 2014. It includes 23,000 square feet of trampoline space, four party rooms and a concession stand. Orsino expects to hire 80-100 people.

New construction isn't Orsino's only challenge at SkyZone.

For one, Orsino enters the trampoline business early, but he's not the first. Tampa entrepreneurs Rich Heruska and Steve Johnston opened Airheads in 2010 in Carrollwood and have since added locations in Largo and Orlando. Closer to Orsino's Sky Zone are two other competitors. One is Jumpin Fun Sports - Trampoline Park, in a converted movie studio in a Lakewood Ranch corporate park. The other is Jump Zone, a batting cage/trampoline center off State Road 70 and I-75 in a facility initially built to support growth at an air-conditioning firm. Both of those are less than 10 miles from the Sarasota Sky Zone.

“Now a lot of people understand what a trampoline park is,” says Orsino, who relocated to Sarasota from Buffalo with his wife and two kids to open the facility. “In my opinion Sky Zone does it right.”

Sky Zone, which opened its first location in Las Vegas in 2004, is expanding nationwide. Former telecommunications executive Jay Highley recently opened a Sky Zone in Fort Myers. Highley, who worked for Google and ran business sales for the wireless division at Sprint, where he oversaw 1,200 people, says business is going really well.

Highley plans to open at least four more Sky Zones, including two in Tampa, over the next year or so. “I could instantly see the value of this,” says Highley, who, like Orsino was introduced to Sky Zone through his kids. “Southwest Florida was hungry for family entertainment like Sky Zone.”

Orsino says a detailed demographics study supports his investment, which includes a $60,000 Sky Zone franchise fee. The data, says Orsino, show that around 30% of people within a 30-minute drive fit Sky Zone's target population of kids and young adults. “There's not much to do indoors when it rains and is really hot,” says Orsino. “Our business centers around healthy, fun fitness.”

Follow Mark Gordon on Twitter @markigordon


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