Starting an indoor playground can be personally and financially rewarding for business people with a creative streak. The creative advantage of indoor playgrounds is that they are extremely versatile, as they can house any equipment, activity or feature the builder wants. The business advantage of indoor playgrounds is that they can establish a niche by catering to parents who want their kids to be healthy and active. The keys to starting an indoor playground are to find a good location to put the facility, and create an aesthetically pleasing interior for the customers.
Read the yellow pages to find out how many indoor playgrounds are already in your area. Indoor playgrounds are usually listed under "recreation facilities" or "playgrounds," and often have names like "family fun center" or "fun zone." If you are unsure whether an establishment contains an indoor playground, call the business to ask. Many businesses, such as restaurants and day cares, contain indoor playgrounds as a side attraction. Make note of where indoor playgrounds are located in your area.
Decide on the type of indoor playground you will operate. Indoor playgrounds come in many shapes and sizes. Some have one large tube complex comprised of many interconnected tunnels and slides. Some have several detached components (slides, swings, jungle gyms) similar to those found in outdoor playgrounds. Others have arcade games and food courts in addition to play equipment. The equipment for tube complexes is generally more expensive than conventional playground equipment, and more equipment and features means greater startup costs. Consider costs as well as benefits when deciding on the concept for your playground. Look at supplier websites and compare prices and features for equipment.
Find a location where there are few existing playgrounds, but many schools, day cares and retailers. It is important to choose a location where parents and children frequently travel together, but equally as important to choose a location where you won't have too much competition. Indoor playgrounds serve a fairly simple purpose: they are places for children to have active play time without parents having to worry about their kids wandering off. For that reason, there isn't usually a market for more than one indoor playground in a small area. To find an appropriate location, search in retail rental space directories for commercial buildings with open floor space and a suburban location.
Design the floor layout for the playground. Depending on the complexity of your project, you could do it yourself or with the help of an interior designer. If you plan to operate a simple playground with conventional equipment, then you could design a simple layout with the help of an on line floor planning resource. If you plan to operate a larger playground with a tube complex and several rooms, you may wish to retain the services of an interior designer. To find an interior designer in your area, visit the American Society of Interior Designers website (www.asid.org) and click on "find an interior designer."
Purchase playground equipment. There are many businesses specializing in different types of playground equipment and supplies. The supplier you should work with depends on the type of playground you want to operate. For example, International Play Co. offers conventional slides, swings and jungle gyms built for indoors, while Orca Coast Play offers large tube based structures for larger playground facilities.
Check to see what state and local business permits you will need. Register your business name and get a tax ID number. Business names are usually registered with your state and may require a fee. You can usually complete tax and business forms on line at your state department website. Federal Tax IDs are obtained through the IRS and your state's revenue agency.
Install the equipment in your location. If needed, hire a mover to help move the equipment to the location when it arrives. If your floor plan involves complicated networks of attached components, the company from which you purchased the equipment may help you install your larger components. You can often install simple equipment yourself.