Duluth News Tribune
On a recent rainy morning, the star of the trampoline park was a preteen from Cable, Wis., who bounced through the trampoline arena and launched himself off an angled wall. He scurried sideways hand-over-foot over a foam pit.
And he sprinted up the climbing wall, barely touching the holds.
You should see Daniel Welk, 11, when he's at home.
"We have a treehouse and I jump out onto our trampoline," he said, before darting off to the next stop at Planet 3 Extreme Air Park.
The indoor park, which opened last week in the former Grainger Industrial Supply Building in West Duluth, has a reported 15,000 square feet of trampolines — in some cases, as a point of entrance into foam pits, in other cases to enhance the vertical aspect of a sport.
Before buying a one- or two-hour flight ticket, which is a color-coded neon bracelet — or the required neon safety socks complete with sole nubs — a trampoline hopeful signs a waiver while an animated safety video highlights the rules and risks, including paralysis and/or death. The walls are covered with larger-than-life, glow-in-the-dark space-themed art.
Each station — there are about a dozen — is run by an employee in a black and white referee shirt, "Flight Squad" on the back, with a whistle for tooting at rule-breakers. For instance: run across the Main Court, a series of connected trampolines, and get a toot. No running; Trampolining is a two-footed sport.
There are bounce sports: Launch your body from an angled trampoline into a foam pit, dunk a basketball, play a vertically enhanced version of dodgeball.
There is climbing: Battle Walls are double-sided climbing walls so extreme sporters can race; Rock Wall is a sideways climb over a foam pit.
And there are obstacles, with falls softened by foam pits: The Battle Beam is a chance to bean an opponent with a foam roller until he/she falls from a balance beam; the Ninja Warrior Course is a series of obstacles, the Trapeze swing offers a circus-ian perspective.
Speaking of circus
Avery Brown, a retired circus acrobat, no longer performs with Chicago Boyz, UniverSoul Circus or Ringling Bros. Circus. On Tuesday, he was minding the Trapeze and the Slam Dunk.
"I'm too old for gymnastics," said the member of Planet 3's Flight Squad who is in his late 20s. "That's old in acrobat years."
He did a double flip into the foam pit, then took his act to the Main Court, where he performed consecutive flips in whimsical positions, his hair flipping as he rolled. His coworkers referenced "American Ninja Warrior," but he's not interested.
"I think that would be cheating," he said. "I could do that with one hand."
Coworker Austin Balen, keeper of the Battle Wall, said Brown's stunts are the best he's seen at the park so far. As for Balen, he's more into the social: His Planet 3-style includes dancing to the pop songs favored in the park, coaxing laughs from trampoliners.
And at least three times he assured climbers that it was safe to rappel down the wall.
On weekend nights, Planet 3 becomes a makeshift dance club with neon lights and loud music. By day, it's more staid, relatively speaking. College-aged visitors attempted a slack line, two men settled in for a dunk-off, a family — including two preschoolers — played a kinder, gentler version of dodgeball.
Jennifer Anderson and Courtney LaPlante's plan to go for a run was thwarted by rain. Instead, they landed at the park.
"It's a good workout and good fun," said Anderson, who was most into the Ninja Warrior Course.
LaPlante reconnected with her gymnastics roots on the Main Court and was working up to a flip off the Launch Pads.
"My kids are going to love this," she said, referring to a 3-year-old and 1-year-old who were at day care.
There's a spot for them, too. Kids Court is open to trampoliners who are 6 and younger.
If you go
- What: Planet 3 Extreme Air Park
- When: Open 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday-Thursday; 10 a.m. to midnight Friday-Saturday; 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Sunday
- Where: 101 N. 46th Ave. W.
- Flight tickets: One hour: $14 for ages 7 and older; $11 for 6 and younger; two hours: $20 for 7 and older; $17 for 6 and younger. Plus, $3 mandatory safety socks, which you keep.