Nature abhors a vacuum, but it only takes so many trampoline parks and indoor play spaces to fill it.
It wasn’t hard to predict that there would be struggles for the various businesses that tried to fill the void left when Crystal Palace shut down in September 2014. After 24 years in operation, the amusement park had a pretty good hold on the local market, with few competitors that I can recall. With it gone there was an obvious opportunity for someone to move in. Unfortunately, so many businesses tried to enter the market at the same time that we’re now seeing them close one by one.
Trampoline park franchise Get Air is the latest victim. It closed its 39,500-square-foot Moncton location in late January 2019, owing more than $42,000 in rent, according to notices posted on the front door. When Get Air opened in the fall of 2016, district manager Shauna Bremner told Huddle that “Moncton seemed to be a location that was lacking in sporting facilities and things to do for people indoors during the winter months.” Very true. But that same market research that looked good to Get Air also looked good to indoor trampoline franchise SkyZone, which opened its 24,000-square-foot location in Dieppe in the fall of 2016. I’m doubtful either SkyZone or Get Air would have considered opening here if the other was already established.
Then there are all the other non-trampoline indoor business that opened at the same time, most notably The Play Café, a non-franchise, non-trampoline play space focused on the under-six-year-old crowd that also opened in late 2016. Just as there was much outcry from parents this week when Get Air seemed to suddenly cease operations, the September closure of The Play Café also prompted a lot of remorse and armchair speculation from local parents.
Speaking with The Play Café creator (listen to the conversation here), Marley McGinnis, the impact of several similar indoor play spaces opening within a year of each other certainly brought unforeseen challenges when business plans were first created. While her establishment was different than the trampoline parks that opened at the same time, she was impacted when the Hop! Skip! Jump! indoor play space franchise opened in Moncton shortly after she began operating.
“Obviously you can’t blame someone else, but when it is a small town, there’s only so many choices available and sometimes you just can’t compete,” she says. For McGinnis, her main competition opened during what would normally be her busiest season, meaning she lost important revenue that would have helped her through the lean summer months.
Get Air and The Play Café aren’t the only local entertainment options that families have lost in the past year or so. There was Unplugged Café in Riverview, which closed in the fall of 2017. The Beach House was a short-lived but much-loved indoor volleyball court. Several inflatable bouncy rental companies have opened and closed permanent locations. There was the Shot Lab and Café Diem. All opened and closed within two years.
Some indoor play options that opened after the closure of Crystal Palace are still operating. Fit Rocks is a locally-owned rock climbing facility that is expanding in the province (and stepping up to honour party rentals and gift cards purchased at Get Air). Crystal Mountain Party Palace has moved locations from St. George Street to Elmwood Drive, but is still operating. Play Time Kiddo remains open for private bookings.
It is my sincere hope that we’re at the end of this rush to fill the vacuum left by the closure of Crystal Palace. We do have the market and the need for indoor play options; we just had too many appear at the same time.