The History of Inflatable Parks

The entertainment game is always changing and always evolving. From the first caveman who built a wagon with wheels and rode down a hill to the most sophisticated and mind-bending rollercoasters, it’s a constant search for improvement. Inflatable parks are in the infancy of development with only 60 years since the first idea.

The Very Beginning

Inflatable parks became the new look of modern entertainment starting with the first inflatable structure made in 1959 by John Scurlock of Shreveport, Louisiana, USA. He was experimenting with inflatable tennis court covers when he saw that his employees were having a great time jumping on the covers. Mr. Scurlock was a mechanical engineer and had a keen interest in physics. He proceeded to be a pioneer in the development of inflatable structures such as inflatable domes, inflatable tents, and inflatable signs. But his most notable achievement was the invention of the air cushion, which is used by fire and rescue departments worldwide to catch people who jump from buildings or heights.

The world’s first spacewalk production plant was based in a leased factory in New Orleans, USA. Spacewalk was the first company to bring an inflatable to the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions, Showmen’s Club, and the American Rental Association conventions. John’s wife Frances realized that the market for their inflatables was limited and in 1968 launched the first inflatable rental company. They custom-built a production facility in 1976 and utilized it for both manufacturing and renting out the goods. Birthday parties, school fairs, and corporate picnics were all identified as suitable locations for the space walks. As the entire family could not get enough of compressed air, their son, Frank Scurlock was responsible for expanding this business and taking it nationwide. He adopted their rental concept and marketed it under the brand names Space Walk and Inflatable Zoo. In the late 1980s, he expanded them further into inflatable play parks which became very popular over the decades. On Thanksgiving Day of 1986, Frank built Fun Factory, the world’s first indoor play park made entirely of inflatables, in Metairie, Louisiana. Fun Plex, a second site in Memphis, Tennessee, started for operation in 1987. Both locations were forced to close as the value of the property became too high to continue the operations.

In 1974 the product line called Jupiter Jump was created to solve the heat issues in summer that the first inflatable structures were facing requiring an operation at least of two fans. It was made of inflatable columns that hold netting walls that allow air to pass through. This concept then was upgraded further with the creation of Inflatable Zoo, a unique design collection of castles and animals. One of Frank’s greatest achievements was designing the Aqua Tunnel in the early 1990s. it became the first commercially available inflatable water slide.

Thanks to John Scurlock, his wife and a son, and his inflatable tennis court covers, the inflatable industry began its journey. The inflatable companies started to bring multiple structures to a location and build bigger and more varied parks. Multiple owners of former trampoline parks realized that they are running out of ideas, the competition was everywhere, and insurance expenses became higher as the statistics for trampoline parks showed substantial risk. Some of these parks were transformed from trampoline facilities into inflatable theme or concept parks. Here are some examples of inflatable parks around the world that changed and revolutionized the entertainment industry:

Inflata Nation

The UK’s first inflatable park was built by Inflata Nation. It is a group of indoor inflatable theme parks and the center is in Trafford Park of Manchester. Inflata-Nation is headed by Matthew and Michele Ball. They moved quick, having launched the first trampoline parks in Manchester in 2014, 3 years later, clusters of trampoline parks appeared in every town The couple was keen to innovate and move the leisure market on to the next generation of leisure activities. With a small taste of what fun inflatables can bring, they quickly teamed up to work with a market-leading manufacturer and create their vision of what inflatables could be when professionalized and offered by experienced leisure operators. So Inflata Nation was born, with their first park on September 21 st of 2017 at their existing Trafford, Manchester site.

Big Bounce America

The Big Bounce America is the largest touring inflatable event in the entire world. The concept creators Cameron Craig and Grahame Ferguson are both from Glasgow Scotland. They run events all over the world including Big Bounce America. Cameron and Grahame always had an interest in working in live events such as student parties at the university student union since they were young. Now they put on events at colleges, universities, and festivals across the world and continuously come up with new ideas. One of those ideas was the Big Bounce America concept, which the pair launched in 2017. From the outset, it was clear it was going to be a success. The start of the entertainment was 15 events in 2017, and then grew to 52 the next year. Currently, they are hosting about 70 events in the United States alone. They have tried to expand internationally and have some upcoming events booked but the pandemic put everything on hold. Their most popular creation, “the Big Bounce America” brand has grown continuously in size.

Vertigo Inflatapark

Vertigo Inflatapark with 30,000 sq. ft. of indoor attractions located in Belfast, Northern Ireland once had the unique distinction of being called the World’s largest Inflatable Action Theme Park. Vertigo has a special story behind it as well. Gareth Murthy, Managing Director, knew it was time after the extremely hot summer of 2018 when 40 trampoline parks went bankrupt. Gareth transformed and renovated his existing 3-year-old successful trampoline park into an entirely new business, as revenues were decreasing, insurance costs were raising, and competition was fierce. At the time there were more than 220 trampoline parks in UK. That change resulted in Northern Ireland’s first InflataPark. The complete conversion from trampoline park to inflatable park took only 12 days, with more than 100 tradesmen working 3-24 hour shifts dismantling the trampoline park structures and building the new mezzanine. The new inflatable park was a massive success utilizing 95% of the floor space for play as opposed to only 65% of the typical trampoline park.

Bounce Empire

As you know by now, the whole industry is being completely upended by James Hay-Arthur with the creation of Bounce Empire, opening in Lafayette Colorado in early 2023. The facility will be the most entertaining facility under 50,000 square feet anywhere in the world. Unlike inflatable parks that have come before, Bounce Empire will feature only the largest and most awe-inspiring inflatables. Leveraging the advances in the technology of airflow materials, and enormous blowers with an unprecedented air movement capacity, the structures will loom 30 feet in the air. Slides will propel customers down at 35 miles per hour. Obstacle courses will stretch for nearly a quarter of a mile. But that is just where the inflatables end and the rest of the facility come into play. Bounce Empire will be a luxury, VIP environment. Tremendous décor will be implemented in the bathrooms, lounge, and hallways. Featuring a scrumptious restaurant that brings Colorado wildlife to the table. A full bar and lounge allow patrons to relax and watch over the facility as kids burn that couped-up energy. 7-star massage chairs, high-end movie theaters, scenic mountain views, incredible kinetic art, and more are all part of the story. Learn more at BounceEmpire.com.

#2 Water World

8801 N Pecos St, Federal Heights, CO 80260
Now if none of the others on your list peaked your interest, I nearly guarantee this one will as in my personal opinion it is the most fun activity in Colorado. Water World, also known as one of the biggest waterparks in the world is nothing without its devotion to a good time. Rides interlace across the entire 70-acre park with rides such as journey to the center of the earth where you float through prehistoric dinosaur infested waters or the mile high flyer a state-of-the-art water coaster. The impressive 31 water rides are sure exhaust anyone and with races, coasters, wave pools, and tubes there is near endless variety. Fly down the 4-person toilet bowl revolution, or race down the two 8 person races located across the park, or even plummet down the near free fall peaks speed slides. None of that your style? Float in one of the multiple lazy rivers, there is something for everyone at water world. The food is great, the rides are fantastic, its affordable, and fun for the entire family. If you have never, been you are not making the most of your time in Colorado if you don’t visit this summer.

#1 Bounce Empire

Announced as a state-of-the-art entertainment destination Bounce Empire is bringing inflatables to everyone. Housing over 40 inflatable games, slides and obstacle courses there is no end to the variety of entertainment for the entire family. Over 1000 feet of obstacle courses stretch over the facility with an average height of 20 feet offering heart pounding entertainment in a variety of different sceneries. Fly down slides at over 30 miles an hour down one of the twelve epic slides with the largest being the Kraken at 27 feet tall. None of those your style, play dozens of games such as inflatable 9-hole golf or inflatable soccer or even Viking throwing axes with your friends. The venue has an adult only lounge with the highest quality bar with massage chairs and other attractions. A restaurant will be located inside as well with delicious healthy food and two next generation theaters will be available to show anything from movies to sporting events. Bounce empire seems to be a promising entertainment venue coming to Colorado in March 2023 and I personally can’t wait to visit.
Visit Bounce Empire’s Website here

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