Taking the Leap
Sky Zone Plainfield Owner Talks Creating a Family-Fun Environment & Giving Back
Photographer: Amy Payne
Gary Kingery had always wanted to run his own business. With a background in chemical engineering and an MBA in finance, it might be surprising he ended up owning Sky Zone Plainfield and Sky Zone South Indy, but for Kingery, the “jump” was easy.
“This is a place of fun,” Kingery says, gesturing to the 21,000 square foot warehouse behind him, which houses 113 trampolines built for multiple activities. “People don’t come in here to be upset or to do work. They come in here looking for fun so I get to see a lot of smiles and a lot of happy faces.”
The process is simple. People can purchase chunks of time for jumping (60, 90 or 120 minutes), purchase special jump socks (that they can keep and bring back the next time), and then simply play at any one of the several features offered: the Warped Wall, Freestyle Jump, Sky Slam, Dodgeball, Foam Zone or the Sky Ladder.
Kingery’s path to Sky Zone franchise ownership seems a little serendipitous. In his career in corporate finance, Kingery had a co-worker who was building the Sky Zone Fishers location, which was the first one in Indianapolis. Kingery was able to see the growing pains of starting up a company firsthand as he watched his co-worker walk through the startup process.
Once Kingery moved on from his corporate job, he did what any self-professing entrepreneur would do. He asked himself the question, “What business can I start?” He called his old co-worker and began to talk more realistically about what it would look like to own a franchise of Sky Zone.
“I really got to see the growing pains of starting it, operating it and maintaining it,” Kingery says. “She shared more with me about the process of building and how it needs to be run.”
Kingery decided to visit Sky Zone headquarters in Los Angeles for a learning day to see if he was a good fit for the Sky Zone brand. Once Kingery was qualified, he began to scout out locations. But nothing seemed to be what he was looking for. That’s when his connection with his old co-worker provided another opportunity, and he decided to buy the Plainfield location.
He’s been the owner and operator of Sky Zone Plainfield since 2014 and Sky Zone Indy South since 2016.
Kingery takes a lot of pride in the culture of fun and exercise at Sky Zone. It’s not just a place to go jump. He loves providing a fun experience to customers and team members alike. Coming from the corporate world, this is a big switch.
Kingery also finds fulfillment in leading his team members in a light-hearted environment. Many Sky Zone employees are young, and this is their first job.
The demand and pace at a place like Sky Zone is a little different than at a fast food restaurant or waiting tables, but that’s what makes it unique, Kingery adds. Young employees can learn about working in the real world in an environment that’s fun and generally a positive experience.
“Also, people don’t realize how much they’re exercising when they do this,” Kingery says, mentioning that most adults will feel it 10 minutes into jumping, not to mention how sore they are two days later.
“Everyone’s always looking for new ways to exercise,” he adds. “This is one way, and it’s sure to get your endorphins going.”
Fun is a small word to encapsulate all that Sky Zone offers. According to Kingery, the top three features of Sky Zone are the Warped Wall, a 10-foot and 12-foot steeply ramped wall inspired by America Ninja Warrior, Dodgeball, the age-old game played on, you guessed it, trampolines and the Freestyle Jump Area, a wide-open court of 34 trampolines, some of them even along the walls.
Another popular feature is Sky Slam, an area where trampolines are situated directly under basketball goals so that patrons can practice their dunking skills.
In fact, regulars visit quite often to enjoy the pricing of a 30-day or 90-day pass. Shane Shewmake’s teenage son Brayden is a regular who prefers to spend his time at the Sky Slam basketball goals.
“Brayden absolutely loves Sky Zone,” Shane says. “As a parent, I like it because it provides a safe and healthy environment for him to go to as opposed to sitting in his room playing video game.”
“The great thing about Sky Zone is that it’s a place anyone can go and have a great time,” Shane adds. “Young or old, it doesn’t matter.”
If bringing joy and fun to the world isn’t enough, Kingery uses his business in order to support local groups and non-profits, too. Spirit nights are always a fundraising option for school systems or youth groups. Three dollars from each ticket sold goes back to the fundraising group.
In October, Sky Zone Plainfield donated $1 from every sock, t-shirt and spirit night ticket to the American Cancer Society in honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month. In fact, all seven Indiana Sky Zone locations banded together to collect and donate a total of $17,000 that month to ACS.
In the spring, Sky Zone typically works with the Sheltering Wings Youth Council made up of high schoolers from each of the Hendricks County schools to help build awareness for teen dating violence. In the past, Sky Zone has opened up the park and allowed them to publicize a spirit night where all proceeds go to Sheltering Wings. Currently, their spring plans to support Sheltering Wings are still being put together.
What many might see as just a place for kids really has a lot more heart and soul. Kingery upholds and takes pride in his business that offers health, community, friendship, fun, safety, generosity and happiness.
“If someone is looking for some healthy fun come burn up some energy and have a great time with the family,” he says. “This is for all ages. If you’re comfortable on a trampoline, then come on out and jump.”