Urban Air Trampoline and Adventure Park

by Jack Leo

Urban Air Trampoline and Adventure Park Michael Browning Jr. is making a lot of money thinking like a big kid.

In less than eight years, the 34-year-old CEO and co-founder of Urban Air Adventure Parks has turned a single trampoline park in Southlake into the nation’s largest chain of family-oriented indoor theme parks.

I wanted to create a place that I wish I had when I was a kid,” Browning says in his headquarters office in Bedford. “We want to be the Six Flags of the indoor space.

“We focus on moms with kids from walking [age] to 14. They can come in, and there’s something for everyone — safe, clean, affordable.” Urban Air Trampoline and Adventure Park

There are 65 Urban Airs, including 12 in D-FW, that feature climbing walls, warrior obstacle courses, tube playgrounds, ropes courses, trapezes, spinning-and-flipping bumper cars (you gotta see these things) and yes, trampolines.

But there’s also beer, wine, margaritas and daiquiris; high-speed internet; clear-view workstations; and pay massage chairs scattered throughout the play areas.

“As a result, our length of stay has gone from three hours to five hours,” Browning says.

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Work as play

It’s also fun and games at Urban Air’s new headquarters on Airport Freeway. Urban Air Trampoline and Adventure Park

“I’m a big kid at heart,” says Browning, who played semi-pro hockey his freshman year at Texas Christian University. “That spirit of fun and joy keeps us innovative around here.

“When you’re a disruptive company doing new things, you’re always going to take the arrows first and make mistakes. We believe speed and innovation win. We’d rather move quickly — make decisions, make an impact, make a few mistakes that we can fix — than spend the entire next year developing a concept and then roll it out when it’s already outdated.”

Everyone gets an iPhone instead of a desk phone. They can find privacy in phone booths that have banana scratch-and-sniff wallpaper.

“I want to create a culture where people don’t feel chained to their desks,” he says. “Everyone has line of sight to windows, no caves.”

There’s a pingpong table in the cafeteria and mini-golf with synthetic grass, along with cornhole, a ring-toss game and a huge Jenga set in “The Backyard.”

“We can be just as productive playing pingpong and talking about a problem as we can sitting in a staunchy conference room,” Browning says. “We have an Xbox game area. So we’ll sit down and play a game of Madden and talk out what’s going on.”

Midweek, Urbanites stay late for “Wine Down Wednesdays.”

Not his first skydive

When Browning was 7, he went door-to-door selling his handmade beaded bracelets: “My parents love to joke about that.”

In 2005, Browning started a customer analytics company in his dorm room as he was finishing up his sophomore year at TCU.

Two years later, he sold that company for $5 million in cash and stock to Rowland Hanson, a former Microsoft marketing and branding executive who named Windows.

In 2009, Browning launched a privately held health care company that primarily distributed Zerona, a noninvasive body contouring laser.

He was in San Francisco giving a speech at a technology and plastic surgery conference when he ran across a trampoline park being used for X Games training in a converted airplane hangar underneath the Golden Gate Bridge.

“I thought, ‘Man, this is really interesting,’” Browning says. “When I went to my dad with this idea, I asked him, ‘Dad, can you build it? Can you bring it to life?’ He said sure.

“Funny thing is, he hasn’t built a house since. He’s been so busy with Urban Air.”

The first Urban Air opened Oct. 28, 2011, in Southlake, just down the road from where the company-owned unit is located.

A couple of years into it, Browning noticed that customers were coming in less often, and when they came, they were spending less time.

“When you’re in a trampoline park, no matter what you’re doing, you’re bouncing up and down. So the experience is basically the same,” he says. “I wanted something hot. NBC’s American Ninja Warrior had just come out. So I created the first lookalike replica of an American Ninja Warrior course.”

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