Stephanie Marcus encountered her first trampoline park last July while looking for a way to entertain her sons.
She was intrigued by the facility she found in North Carolina and the business model. Eight months later, she opened the doors to Jumpology trampoline park in northern Henrico County.
"(Trampoline parks) are just really coming to the East Coast," Marcus said. "They're all fairly new."
Jumpology will be joined by Sky Zone, which will open the region's second trampoline park by the end of the year in Chesterfield County.
Marcus and others are jumping on the trampoline park wave — it is an industry that is growing in popularity across America.
"It's a very new industry," said Case Lawrence, a Californian who is a partial owner of Jumpology and is the largest independent developer of trampoline parks in America. "This is just the frontier. … (In the) last two years there has just been exponential growth."
Before 2007, there were "perhaps a handful" of trampoline parks in America, Lawrence said.
Now there are nearly 100 facilities in the country, growing the trampoline park industry to more than $100 million in annual revenue, Lawrence estimates.
Jeff Platt, chief executive officer of Sky Zone, one of the nation's largest trampoline park franchise companies, said the number of trampoline parks in North America has doubled in the past year, bringing the total to 130 parks.
More than 10,000 jumpers, paying $12 per hour, bounce monthly through each of Lawrence's parks in California, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, New Mexico and Alabama.
Jumpology opened in March, but it already has seen 61,628 jumpers — more than 15,000 per month.
Customers have flocked to Jumpology, especially now that school is out for the summer, Marcus said.
She said she was excited, but not entirely surprised by the community's quick adoption of the new trampoline park. For instance, Jumpology has hosted a private party on almost every Sunday since its opening.
The park has more than 50 trampolines covering roughly 8,000 square feet in a former store along U.S. 1 in front of Virginia Center Commons mall.
Among the field of trampoline mats is a dodge ball court, a towering basketball hoop and a foam pit. Inside the jump zone are wall-to-wall trampolines.
The park offers a barrage of events throughout the day, including a children-only jump hour, an instructor-lead workout hour and a two-hour, lights-out dance party on weekend nights.
In its nearly four months of operating, Jumpology has hosted events for local groups ranging from church parties and college sororities to a corporate team from Capital One Financial Corp.
Marcus co-owns Jumpology with her friend Hyunmee Larkin as well as with Lawrence and Mike and Vicky Carpenter, the owners of a Lawrence-affiliated trampoline park in North Carolina.
Marcus wanted to open a trampoline park after taking her sons to the Carpenters' facility in Durham, N.C.
Lawrence, a non-practicing attorney, helped Marcus and Larkin through the opening process. He put them in touch with James G. Parker Insurance Associates, a California-based insurance firm that handles Jumpology's liability insurance.
Safety and liability were big concerns for Marcus and Larkin, but they found that owning a trampoline park was safer than they thought.
"Our liability is not as huge as I thought it would be," Marcus said. "As the mom of three boys, the 'incident rate' in my house is much higher."
Jumpology boasts that less than one-quarter of a percent of its customers receive and report injuries that qualify as "incidents." This includes injuries as minor as scrapes and trampoline burns.
Gavin Grissom, who works in a management role at Jumpology and has worked management positions at different Lawrence-owned parks, said trampoline parks are far safer than backyard trampolines.
"We've got everything padded from top to bottom and we have people out there enforcing the rules," Grissom said.
Jumpology employs 30 "flight attendants" who work shifts to ensure that jumpers have a safe experience. More than half of the staff has been certified in first aid and cardiopulmonary resuscitation, or CPR.
Marcus says she plans to see a return on her investment in the next eight months. Lawrence says this time frame is typical for his partners.
Lawrence's parks are not franchised. Instead he helps develop them and remains a co-owner so that the facility can be tailored to the community.
He opened his first park two years ago. Since then, Lawrence has helped open six trampoline parks across the nation, including Jumpology. He will have three more parks opening by the end of the summer and has five parks slated to open in 2014.
While Lawrence's parks seem to be popping up everywhere, he is just trying to keep pace with his competition.
Sky Zone is one of the biggest trampoline franchise operators in North America.
Sky Zone opened its first location in 2004 and now has 38 locations in the U.S. and Canada. It plans to more than double the number of locations with the addition of 46 more locations on the way.
Sky Zone plans to open in Chesterfield in a former 37,500-square-foot Linens 'n Things store in the Chesterfield Marketplace. Will Phillips, who along with his father, Terry, and brother, Luke, are the franchise operators, said the park will open before the end of the year.
Marcus said she was excited to have another trampoline park in the area. Having a Sky Zone should help create local hype for the industry, she said.
"The perception of their park can only help the perception of our park," Marcus said.
But Lawrence has big ideas for expansion too. He said he plans, by 2015, to open a trampoline park in Europe, which he believes could be an enormous market.
"I think that the idea is here to stay," Lawrence said. "(It's) bringing aerial sports to the masses."