Inflatable fun in Saline
by Billie Ochberg
From the June, 2018 issue
It's tempting to plop a kid in front of a television when we're ready to pull our hair out. Jason Carpenter, a Saline resident and father of two boys, ages five and nine, prefers not to fall back on screens if he can help it.
"My wife, Eva, and I kept talking about the lack of recreational stuff to do with our kids. Saline's Urban Toddler closed, nearby bounce places closed, even Jungle Java closed," said Carpenter, standing inside what would soon be his second Knockerball Michigan location, at the west end of the Commons at Sauk Trail shopping center where Blockbuster Video used to be. Carpenter opened his first Knockerball franchise last year in Livonia. Before that, he was working close to seventy hours a week as a general manager at Best Buy.
"I just wasn't seeing enough of my kids," he said. Then he read online about Knockerball. For a lot of folks, opening a new business means longer work hours, but for Carpenter, it was a win-win: more time with his family and a new social and physical alternative to videogames for his kids and community.
What is Knockerball? Picture a field of people, each wearing huge transparent balls, running into each other, like giant beach balls with legs.
"It's awesome, healthy fun, and it keeps people off their cell phones," said Carpenter, with a smile, adding, "And it's not just for kids. Sixty percent of our customers are adults. It uses a lot more energy than you'd expect."
Customers can reserve one of the indoor fields for a private party, show up for open play, or rent Knockerballs for outdoor play at a park or in their own backyards. All prices include the Knockerballs, the field time if indoors, and an event coordinator who teaches and facilitates different games. There are many, including a Knockerball version of musical chairs, Last Man Standing, Capture the Flag, Sharks vs. Minnows, King of the Ring, Bubble
Soccer, or Football. Staff will also offer tips on how to do flips, roll, or stay on your feet.
The balls come in three sizes: small, medium, and large--small enough for three-year-olds and big enough for any adult (there's no maximum height, but there is a 275-pound weight limit). The balls go on like a backpack with an opening for your legs and plenty of air and support around your head.
Carpenter recommends checking out the website, which has links to videos, including one of Carpenter's nine-year-old son Brady hosting a tour of his dad's Livonia location. When completed, the 4,500-square-foot Saline branch will have a limited snack bar with chips, candy, and sports drinks like Gatorade as well as used Knockerballs for sale. There will be a party room with tables and chairs for reservation and two fields with a viewing area for spectators.
"Frankly, it's as much fun to watch as it is to play," said Carpenter. Watching is free.
Folks who reserve the party room are welcome to bring in outside food but no alcohol.
Open play times are listed below but customers may reserve fields for all times of day, even the middle of the night.
"I've had people reserve for a lock-in and play at three a.m.," said Carpenter. He emphasized that it's most fun with at least ten people. "That way people can take breaks and rotate in and out of games," he said. The Saline location is expected to open July 1.
Knockerball Michigan, 1305 E. Michigan Ave. (Commons at Sauk Trail), Saline. (734) 223-2819. Open play times for ages five and up: Sun. 5-8 p.m., Wed. 5-9 p.m., Fri. 6-9 p.m., Sat. 6-9 p.m. Other times by appointment. knockerballmichigan.com
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