By Andrew Alexander
Flying through air, defying gravity while jumping on a trampoline, can take one’s breath away. Trampolining takes me to back to fun times during childhood, when bouncing up and down for hours ranked near the top of my favorite outdoor pastimes.
As I grew older, simple bouncing up and down evolved into catapulting from the trampoline into my friend’s backyard swimming pool and playing “Slamball,” a game combining a traditional basketball hoop with a trampoline.
Area 51 Extreme Air Sports blows my childhood imagination out of the water.
Nestled just off Interstate-10 in the shadows of the Mall of Louisiana, Area 51 Extreme Air Sports is a trampoline park that brings high-flying fun to the capital city.
Sharing a name with the infamous southern Nevada military facility often linked to conspiracy theories and UFO folklore is no coincidence.
“Something about the other-worldly theme struck us, and we ran with it,” Area 51 general manager Aaron Tucker explained. “We like to market ourselves as one of kind and a unique experience away from the normal world. You’re coming into something completely different here.”
Located in a 23,000 square-foot facility, Area 51 features a massive open jumping field with several interconnected trampolines that allow participants to soar through the air. But the fun does not end there. Area 51 also features trampoline dodgeball, basketball hoops, a rock climbing wall, slack lines, foam pits, a trapeze and an addictively fun obstacle course.
Upon entering Area 51 with several members of the DIG staff, I instantly reverted back to my 10-year old self, eager to test every feature of the trampoline park. Quickly ditching my shoes and socks (barefoot is where it’s at in Area 51), I entered the trampoline park and headed straight for the enormous jumping field. Bouncing from trampoline to trampoline, I quickly regained my reckless, youthful bouncing form.
Dodging small children and fellow DIG staffers, I maneuvered my way throughout the jumping field, hitting the angled wall trampolines and taking the opportunity to really explore the expansive space. In total awe of the trampoline paradise, and mindlessly bouncing around the jumping field, I quickly lost track of my momentum, resulting in a hilarious crash landing at the feet of an anxious soccer-mom. The entire trampoline park is furnished with couches and chairs for parents to relax in on the sidelines while their children take flight on the various trampoline activities in Area 51.
After scraping myself off the ground, I headed to the basketball hoops to test my dunking ability. Everyone knows white men can’t jump, but I figured with the help of trampolines, I could defy the odds. Before attempting a dunk myself, I threw a few lob passes to several kids attempting to alley oop. After getting criticized by pre-pubescent ballers for my inability to feed them the ball, I toted the rock myself and headed full steam towards to basket.
Not as easy as it looks.
I mistimed my jump, so before I even made it to the basket, my momentum carried me backwards, eventually resulting in a reverse somersault. Nursing my ego and my spine, I headed towards the foam pits to try my luck at another bouncy activity.
The foam pits are really the only aggravating part of the Area 51 experience. Despite being incredible fun to jump into off a trampoline, to extricate one’s self from the foam pits is a pain in the rear end. It’s the equivalent of quick sand: the more you struggle, the farther you sink into the foamy abyss. Emerging from the foam pits after nailing the double front-flip heel grab McTwist was the single most exhausting activity of the day.
Tucker originally encountered trampoline parks for the first time when he brought his younger brother to a park in Fresno, California for his birthday.
“That’s where I kind of got blown away by this whole concept,” Tucker said.
Tucker explained that population size, great location and “very fun-loving and active” people were deciding factors when choosing to open Area 51 in Baton Rouge.
“There’s just an energy in the SEC markets with the people,” Tucker said. “Our trampoline parks do very well in that type of location.
After bypassing the trapeze and rock wall, (they are super fun, I promise!) I headed to what I knew would easily be the most popular attraction in Area 51: trampoline dodgeball.
I love dodgeball with every fiber of my being. White Goodman and Peter La Fleur can’t hold a candle to my dodgeball passion. I don’t care if I’m squaring off against Marines or the Little Sisters of the Poor, when dodgeball is the game, I ratchet up the intensity to Dennis Hopper crazy levels. In this case, my opponents and teammates were mostly children. Game on!
Combining dodgeball with trampolines has be the single greatest idea in sports since instant replay or the t-shirt cannon. In between teaching the kids on my team the finer points of the fake out throw and the cross-court blindsider toss, I soar through the air and contort my body at angles only previously capable in my imagination (or the Matrix), while showering the other team with a barrage of dodgeballs. After the epic trampoline dodgeball match leaves me sweaty, yet satisfied, I head to catch my breath on one of the aforementioned couches. It’s been a great day.
It’s easy to channel one’s inner-child at Area 51. The blissful environment seems to evaporate any care one may have been saddled with before entering the sacred trampoline ground.
“Sometimes you just need to feel like a kid again, let yourself go of any worries, and go Helm’s Deep in the foam pit,” DIG Entertainment editor Tara Bennett said. “No regrets.”
Other jumpers view Area 51 as a unique and challenging fitness experience.
“I’m the kind of person who hates gyms,” DIG City editor Nick BeJeaux explained. “You go, you work, and that’s it. It’s mindless and accomplishments come slow. At a place like Area 51, you actually do things and that makes a huge difference to me. Landing a side flip, making it through the obstacle course, or getting across the slack line hands free are all great ways to work out, but they develop your skills as well as your fitness level.”
Whether for pleasure or fitness, Baton Rouge residents now have options when it comes to their trampoline park experience. In addition to Area 51, Sky Zone Indoor Trampoline Park recently opened its doors to welcome 225 residents to fly high on its trampolines.
“We were the first of our kind here in Baton Rouge,” Tucker explained. “We saw that there was nothing like this in a community where we felt like we’d be well received. But the more the merrier. I think it’s great that people get the chance to experience trampoline parks. I love everything about this industry.”
For more information about Area 51 Extreme Air Park, visit www.area51.us.
And in case I didn’t paint a sweet enough picture of this trampoline park oasis, this well done video can give you a better idea.