Trampoline-park operators would have to jump through regulatory hoops in Arizona if a bipartisan group of lawmakers have their way.
The new bill follows lobbying efforts by the parents of a Valley man who died in 2012 at SkyPark, a Phoenix indoor trampoline center.
Several other trampoline places remain open around the state, including Get Air, Airworx, Jump Street, and Flip Dunk Sports. The indoor parks offer exercise and entertainment for trampoline aficionados, combining multiple bouncy surfaces in one area. Sometimes there'll be basketball, dodgeball, or other trampoline-augmented activities. As the facilities have grown in popularity nationwide in recent years, so have safety concerns.
No specific regulations provide oversight for the centers, and that's one thing Maureen Kerley hopes to change. Her son, 30-year-old Ty Thomasson, died in February 2012 at the former SkyPark after taking a headfirst plunge into a "foam pit," which was full of cube-shaped cushions. He broke his neck and died three days later at a local hospital. (The place appears closed these days, and the phone number's not working.)
As New Times detailed in a June 2013 blog post, Kerley -- who moved to Coronado Island in San Diego after her son's death -- believes Ty would still be alive if SkyPark's operators had made the foam pit deeper. The "recommended" depth of foam pits is about six feet, she claims, though a lack of firm standards in the industry is a general problem she hopes legislation can change.
In August, a 19-year-old employee at a Florida trampoline park died after hitting his head, Kerley notes.
"I just honestly believe the public doesn't know the dangers," she says.
Kerley and an unrelated California group pushing for trampoline-park regulations, Think Before You Bounce, convinced California lawmakers to sponsor a law in their state. The proposal wasn't approved last year, but Kerley says they're tweaking the wording and trying again.
For Arizona, she and her ex-husband, Gary Thomasson, hired a local law firm to talk to lawmakers about the issue, and House Bill 2179 was drafted. Sixteen Republican and Democrat representatives and four Republican state senators have already signed on to it. Kerley's coming to Arizona the first week of February to talk with lawmakers about the bill, she says.
The bill's prime sponsor, Representative Doug Coleman, a Republican from Apache Junction, didn't return calls.
Conservative Arizona lawmakers typically criticize too much regulation in business matters, but this bill seems to be an exception. The bill takes existing law regarding "amusement rides" and shoehorns in language about trampoline parks. Highlights of the oversight proposal include:
* Yearly inspections of the centers, their equipment and the materials used, with consequences for suspected problems.
* Mandatory insurance of at least $1 million for any bodily harm to patrons.
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* Record-keeping on serious injuries and equipment repairs.
* Allow cities and counties to oversee certain aspects of the operation, and charge fees for the oversight services.
If this bill goes through, look for the price of admission at Arizona trampoline parks to take a jump.