Trampoline safety bill bounces into the Capitol

By MATTHEW HALL

Capital News Service

LANSING – A proposed law would require commercial trampoline operators to maintain safety standards and notify patrons of risks.

The bill was introduced by Sen. Dave Hildenbrand, R-Lowell, after being approached by industry representatives looking for more safety and liability protection.

“Trampoline court operators looked at what other states offer in regards to some protections in the law for good operators,” said Fred Schaible, Hildenbrand’s chief of staff, adding that no specific incidents prompted the push for the trampoline law.

“It’s more of a preemptive measure just to make sure that this expanding and growing industry in the state is able to do so in a successful way,” he said.

Commercial “trampoline courts,” play areas that consist of foam pits and dozens of trampolines, are a booming business in Michigan. For example, the Los Angeles-based Sky Zone Indoor Trampoline Park has franchises in Canton and Kentwood with plans to open more in Kalamazoo, Lansing, Novi and Shelby Township.

The owners of the Canton and Kentwood franchises approached Hildenbrand about the need for legislation.

Other parks in Michigan include AirTime Trampoline & Game Park in Troy.

“When guests think of trampolines, they might think of the backyard trampoline that sends someone flying out into the yard,” said Ryan Wink, the general manager at Sky Zone in Kentwood. “This location has 136 wall-to-wall trampolines, basically completely-walled playing courts, not your average backyard trampoline. Everything is padded and all of them are guarded by lifeguards.”

The parks are especially popular with children. About 75 to 80 percent of Sky Zone’s customers are between 5 and 16, Wink said.

The bill’s language would give more protection against lawsuits to such indoor parks by requiring them to adhere to safety standards and would also require trampoliners to assume responsibility for injuries when they don’t follow the rules.

The bill would mandate that operators notify patrons of safety rules with signs or other means, forbid patrons from dangerous tricks, rule out trampolining under the influence of drugs or alcohol, and require that participants acknowledge the dangers involved in the activity.

“There’s always a danger with any kind of equipment if you’re not using it in the right way,” said Allie Whitford, executive director of the nonprofit Lansing Area Safety Council. “With anything that you play on, if you’re not using it carefully, there’s a chance for injury.”

To parents, Whitford says: “Be cautious any time your child is on a trampoline. Make sure you’re watching and make sure they’re using it safely.”

Wink said, “People doing things that they shouldn’t have given some parks a bad reputation. If you follow the rules and don’t do anything crazy, it should be a great experience. It’s fun, it’s a great way to exercise and have a great time doing it.”

“We hope the legislation goes through sooner rather than later,” he said. “It’s definitely something we’re backing 100 percent.”

Schaible, Hildenbrand’s aide, denied that the proposal would add more regulations at a time when legislative Republicans and the governor are leading efforts to reduce government.

“There isn’t any sort of licensing or statutory fee structure assigned to this,” he said. “It’s an educational tool that says ‘if you’re going into this facility, you’re taking on a certain amount of risk and act in a responsible way to avoid any potential harm that may occur.’”

He said the Sky Zone facility in Kentwood has about 60 employees. “It is a jobs issue and a way to support the economy.”

The bill has been referred to the Senate Economic Development Committee.

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