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TUESDAY, APRIL 24, 2007
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Cicily and Carson Crow hang stuck to the Velcro wall at Off the Walls, a new indoor children's playground on Beltline Road Southwest.
Daily photo by Gary Cosby Jr.
Cicily and Carson Crow hang stuck to the Velcro wall at Off the Walls, a new indoor children's playground on Beltline Road Southwest.

Bouncing off
the walls

Giant indoor playground offers
fun for children - and adults

By Danielle Komis
dkomis@decaturdaily.com 340-2447

Allison Crow's children were Velcroed to the wall while she worked Wednesday evening.

That's right — Velcroed.

Penny Russom, 7, tests her singing skills on the karaoke stage at Off the Walls.
Daily photo by Gary Cosby Jr.
Penny Russom, 7, tests her singing skills on the karaoke stage at Off the Walls.
Crow's 11-year-old and 5-year-old hurled their bodies at the Velcro wall at the newly opened "Off the Walls" 20,000-square-foot indoor playground in Decatur.

In a small city with limited opportunities for family fun, many parents say "Off the Walls" is a welcome addition.

Its giant indoor playground featuring inflatables, karaoke, laser tag, obstacle courses, oversized soccer and basketball, costumes, stackable blocks, Mr. Potato Head toys and oversized tricycles offers entertainment for young children to teens.

Word spread quickly among parents when the facility opened a few weeks ago, and it has already been overwhelmed with families, said owner Allison Crow.

"The response has blown me away," she said. Numerous people told her the facility is the best thing that's ever happened to Decatur, she said.

"You don't know how many times I've heard that, and that's a good feeling," she said.

Last week, many families at "Off the Walls" were experiencing the facility for the first time. Kim Davis of Decatur and her children, Ella and Jack, were among them. Initially, they intended to check it out and come back another time, but after her son saw it, he couldn't wait.

"I can see us coming back here at least once a week," Kim Davis said, as 8-year-old Jack munched on a soft pretzel from the concession stand, which also offers frappuccinos, nachos and Dippin' Dots ice cream. "I was glad they opened this place so Jack would have a place to go."

Davis said the only similar place they used to frequent was Discovery Zone in Huntsville, which closed years ago, she said.

Deb McCann of Decatur also was trying out "Off the Walls" with her 7-year-old daughter, Erin, last week.

"It's way better than what I expected," she said, as her daughter bounced in a giant inflatable. Other indoor playgrounds in Huntsville and Madison only have inflatables and not all the other extras that "Off the Walls" has, she said.

"It'll become a new hot spot for us," she predicted.

An idea in the making

Crow glows with pride when she looks around the colorful playplace — an idea she dreamed up after visiting an indoor playground in Birmingham a few years ago.

After years of serving as a social worker at a hospice, she was ready to switch careers and try something more upbeat that would also benefit Decatur families.

"It's something I felt like Decatur needed," she said. "Everything I could think of that my kids would want to do, I put it over here."

Yet she also wanted to ensure the activities would be beneficial to children, so she avoided video games and stuck to activities she felt promoted "active and creative play," she said. Most children usually leave red-faced from the workout, she said.

She began buying inflatables a couple years ago and stored them while she tried to find the right location.

A family affair

Once she found the location in a section of the former Winn-Dixie on Beltline Road, she and her family set to work on getting it ready. And it wasn't easy.

"You don't know the pain we went through to get this place done," said Cicily, Crow's 11-year-old daughter. Allison Crow even has a scar on her hand where she had to get six stitches after she cut it while laying the floor.

None of the work on the facility was contracted out, she said, and most of it was accomplished by her and her mother.

They painted the walls and floor with cheerful characters and designs, picked out the inflatables and games, and set everything up while her children "tested out" the equipment.

"It definitely brought my family closer together," she said.

And it continues to do that. Crow's daughter checks on the costumes and building block room every 45 minutes to clean it up for her allowance money. Crow's mother also works at the giant playplace.

Crow has two full-time managers, and six part-time teen employees. Capacity is 450, which "Off the Walls" already almost reached one stormy Saturday.

Future plans

She's already scheduled a flood of birthday parties, and plans to start team-building exercises for local companies. She also wants to start offering a teen night on the weekends.

In a few weeks, she's expecting a shipment of 12 more inflatables to arrive to add to the already stocked playground.

Within a month, "Off the Walls" will have a grand opening featuring entertainment, concessions and face painting, Crow said.

It brings a smile to Crow's face to see so many people enjoying the place that she dreamed up, including the parents who get to play, too.

"It's for the kids and the kids at heart," she said.

Ready to play?

Off the Walls playplace is for children of all ages.

Location: Plum Tree Center, Beltline Road Southwest (next to Fred's Discount).

Admission: $8 per child. Children ages 8 and older can be left at the facility for up to two hours without a parent. Parents can always play for free, and wireless Internet and TVs are also available for parents who want to take a break.

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