Indoor trampoline center planned in Elgin

A Texas-based company wants to turn a vacant former medical building in Elgin into an indoor amusement center with a trampoline park, laser tag, bowling, miniature golf, electric go-carts and arcade games.

The Elgin location, 1019 E. Chicago St., would be one of the largest among the 27 centers owned across the country by Urban Air Trampoline Park, including two opening next week, said co-founder and CEO Michael Browning.

"It really does appeal to a very wide range demographic," Browning said. "Our sweet spot is being 'birthday party central.'"

Urban Air, which has no locations in Illinois, is working on opening more centers in the Chicago area, including in Crystal Lake - whose planning and zoning commission is scheduled to discuss it Wednesday - and possibly Algonquin and Waukegan, according to the company's website.

The 95,521-square-foot vacant building and 10-acre site in Elgin belongs to Advocate Sherman Hospital, which closed the Sherman Health Resource Center in 2011.

Advocate Sherman maintenance worker Kurt Witbrod, who has checked in on the vacant building weekly for the last five years, said the past few weeks have been busy. "I've been busy meeting geologists, HVAC guys, all sorts of people," he said Tuesday as he took carpet measurements.

Tonya Lucchetti-Hudson, the hospital's director of public affairs and marketing, said, "We are glad to see the property will be used for a purpose that promotes physical activity and that will generate tax revenue for the city."

Both she and Browning declined to name the pending sale price. "It's a multi, multimillion dollar investment," Browning said.

Elgin's planning and zoning commission on Monday gave a unanimous green light to the plan for the amusement center submitted by the local franchisee, The David P. Frayer and Kendal L. Frayer Revocable Trust. The plan will discussed by the city council Dec. 21 or Jan. 11, Community Development Director Marc Mylott said

"Everyone loved it," Mylott said of the commissioners' response. "I love it as well, especially as a father of three kids who have taken advantage of facilities like this in other communities. It would be wonderful to be able to have a place to go like that in Elgin."

Urban Air has 19 centers under construction in the U.S., where it continues to scout for locations, and is working on expanding in Europe and the Middle East, Browning said.

"No matter your culture, no matter your language, everybody's got a birthday," Browning said, adding his wife is from Naperville. "We have a huge love for Chicago, and Naperville is hot on our list (for another center)," he said.

Each location offers a different combination of attractions based on the market, Browning said. Indoor sky diving was initially considered for Elgin, but costs were too high, he said.

The company is geared to providing "safe and affordable" attractions for families, Browning said. He declined to disclose the company's safety record - any incidents are tracked individually by state - but said it is "much lower" than the injury rate for children who participate in community sports, citing a 2002 study by the American Journal of Pediatrics.

The parking lot contains 443 spaces, some currently used by bus drivers of Elgin Area School District U-46, who park their personal vehicles there, and others for storage of cars by nearby auto dealerships. Browning said his company can work out a continued arrangement with U-46, but not with the car dealerships.

That's not a problem, McGrath Nissan general manager Keith Kowalczyk said, because the extra parking merely helps alleviate snow related issues in winter. Plus, he'd be glad to have new tenants occupy the empty building next door, he said.

The Texas-based company plans to build a trampoline park similar to this one in a closed medical building in Elgin. Courtesy of Urban Air Trampoline Park
  The former Sherman Health Resource Center at 1019 E. Chicago St. in Elgin closed in 2011. The city council will discuss, later this month or next month, plans to turn it into an indoor amusement center. Elena Ferrarin/
  The former Sherman Health Resource Center at 1019 E. Chicago St. in Elgin. Shown here is its large warehouse area. Elena Ferrarin/
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