A new family entertainment center with trampolines and other attractions will open in Fairview Heights next spring.
A franchise of Urban Air Adventure Park is moving into a space in Fairview Heights Plaza that has been vacant since Sports Authority left four years ago.
“This will be a big traffic generator because it’s got so much going on,” said Paul Ellis, the city’s economic development director.
The city had been concerned about the economic health and well-being of the half-empty strip mall and surrounding business district on the north side of Interstate 64, west of Illinois 159.
“(The mall) has been struggling,” Ellis said. “It’s still in receivership. But I think we’ve made a lot of progress.”
Rio Grande Mexican restaurant opened Monday in the former Applebee’s building, and work continues on a seafood restaurant down the road, although the owner has been forced to come up with a new name because of copyright issues with “Juicy Crab.”
Urban Air is based in Bedford, Texas. More than 130 locations are already operating or under construction, most in the United States, according to its website.
The nearest location is in Cottleville, Missouri, west of St. Charles.
“We take kids birthday parties to a whole new level,” the website states. “Our party reservation specialists will handle all the details from start to finish, so you can focus on enjoying your kid’s big day.”
Beyond trampolines, some Urban Air locations have bowling, laser tag, go-karts, climbing walls, mini golf, bumper cars, arcades, obstacle courses, foam pits, dodgeball and indoor sky diving.
“They vary by location,” said Windy Barnard, a manager in corporate customer service in Texas.
The Fairview Heights franchise is expected to open in May. Barnard said she didn’t know which mix of attractions it would feature.
She referred other questions to an unnamed franchisee, who didn’t respond to a request for comment.
Other tenants in Fairview Heights Plaza include Gordmans, Guitar Center and Sears Outlet Store. The strip mall is surrounded by several hotels and restaurants.
”It should be a very attractive location (for Urban Air) along I-64 and near St. Clair Square,” Ellis said. “There’s lots of traffic going by.”
Similar area businesses include Sky Zone, an entertainment center with trampolines, laser tag, dodgeball and a climbing wall. It opened in May of 2017 in the old Hobby Lobby building in Crossroads Centre in Fairview Heights.
There’s also The Edge in Belleville, which completed a $3.6 million expansion in May, adding a six-lane bowling alley, go-kart racetrack, bumper cars, virtual-reality experiences, a bar, restaurant and banquet facility.
“I welcome (Urban Air) to the community,” said co-owner Mary Dahm-Schell. “It will just keep us on our game.”
Dahm-Schell has been operating The Edge for 24 years with her husband, Keith Schell. Before the expansion, they already had laser tag, a movie theater and arcade.
Dahm-Schell acknowledges that Sky Zone and now Urban Air will increase competition. But, she said, the St. Louis area has historically needed more, not less, family-oriented entertainment.
“I feel like there’s plenty of business to go around,” she said.
In 2014, Sports Authority moved from Fairview Heights Plaza to Fairview City Centre, across the interstate. The store closed for good two years later, when its parent company filed for bankruptcy and liquidated.
Earlier this year, the city of Fairview Heights spent $7,500 to fund an Urban Land Institute study of Fairview Heights Plaza and the surrounding business district and get recommendations on how they could be revitalized.
“The panel strongly encourages the city to consider alternative uses at the site — uses that complement and do not compete with the surrounding successful retail establishments,” the report stated.
It mentioned possibilities such as a craft brewery, indoor sports facility, office building or specialty entertainment venue.
Earlier this fall, Fairview Heights Mayor Mark Kupsky announced at a City Council meeting that a new tenant was moving into Fairview Heights Plaza, but officials said they weren’t authorized to identify it at the time.
“I thought (the Urban Air plan) followed very closely with the recommendations from the Urban Land Institute,” Ellis said Monday.