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There’s a pent up demand for amusement parks despite pandemic: Urban Air CEO

Urban Air is the largest indoor adventure park in America that provides a variety of attractions such as skydiving, bumper cars, and bowling. Urban Air CEO Michael Browning joins Yahoo Finance’s On The Move panel to break down how the company is faring amid reopening.

Video Transcript

JULIE HYMAN: We've got stocks continuing a modest rally in today's session, as we've seen states around the nation start to reopen, notably New York City entering phase one of reopening today. And a lot of people are antsy to get out. One of the things they might want to do-- I know my kids would love to do this-- is go to an indoor adventure park.

We are joined now by Michael Browning. He is the CEO of Urban Air, which is a chain of just that, indoor trampoline and adventure parks. Michael is joining us from the Dallas Fort Worth area. Thanks for joining us, Michael. So you guys have about 150 franchise locations around the country.

You told me about 14% of those are open right now. What do those that are open look like? How has the process been going? Have people who've been coming in, for example, been receptive to some of the measures that you've put in place?

MICHAEL BROWNING: Absolutely. I think one of the biggest reasons they have been receptive is because we listen to our consumer. Aside from the state and national guidelines we've been following, we also reached out to over 3 million families and asked them what they would like to see when we reopened, everything from temperature taking, to wearing masks, to increased sanitation.

And we implemented all of those things. And we're seeing NPS scores around 76 from our consumers, which is extremely high with around the comfort of what we're doing with corona.

- I just kind of want to ask about how you ensure that, you know, kids jumping around trampoline parks, they kind of-- they're basically just germ vectors in and of themselves. So how do you ensure that the actual inside of the parks are clean? Are you scrubbing down every surface? Or are you just kind of having hand sanitizer stations? What are you guys doing specifically?

MICHAEL BROWNING: We are. So every hour, we actually have sanitation specialists, who are inside of our facility, going around with backpacks. And these backpacks contain a misting sanitation surface. It cleans the surfaces. We're doing that every hour. And while we do that, we let the kids dance to the cupid shuffle. We encourage them to go get hand sanitizer.

And one of the beautiful things about our product, our adventure parks, is they naturally social distance. So when you're on the rock climbing, wall from the very beginning, you are six feet away from another kid. A lot of the safety measures we put into place pre-COVID are actually paying off from a social distancing perspective right now.

But we are cleaning every hour throughout the day. And then at the end of each week, we're using an anti-microbial antibacterial antifungal disinfectant called Disinfects. And it leaves a protective coating on our attractions for 30 days. So we're going over and beyond to keep our guests safe.

ADAM SHAPIRO: Hey, it's Adam Shapiro. I got to go to my niece's birthday party at a facility similar to yours. And I was amazed watching the kids crash after the pizza portion, because they were exhausted. And I think it's really for the parents that this business operates, because the kids fall asleep. But of the facilities that you have started to open back up, what are the concerns of parents? And are they coming back?

MICHAEL BROWNING: They are coming back. You know, we believe that the Urban Air consumer, they have done a great job keeping their kids safe, healthy, growing and learning at home. And there's a pent up demand inside of our families and these communities to go out and build relationships and have some fun again. So there is some pent up demand.

I liken how people are getting back out to adoption theory with technology. There's going to be early adopters. Then there's going to be the herd. And there's going to be some laggers. And so we're seeing the early adopters get out there. When we opened up 14% of our parks just two weeks ago, they started out about 25% of prior year sales. And now they've ramped up to 45%.

So it's increasing. And people are talking about the great job our franchisees are doing inside their parks to keep the kids safe. So it's just going to take time. We're going to have to continue to build the confidence in the consumer to come back.

JULIE HYMAN: Michael, what about-- I mean, when you're talking about franchisees, and we've talked to a number of different folks in your position over the past couple of months, you're talking about small business people, right?

So those that are still closed, or even those that have begun to open and are seeing 45% of their prior sales, how are they weathering that? Or a lot of your franchisees, have they gotten PPP loans? Have you seen any that are in financial distress and have had to close permanently? What's been happening on that front?

MICHAEL BROWNING: Yeah, great question. It's definitely tough out there. I told our franchisees, the rubber really meets the road when we have to start reopening and climbing that mountain again. And Urban Air will regain the throne in location-based entertainment. But it's going to be some hard work.

And about 98% of our franchisees took advantage of the PPP program. The latest legislation that was passed around extending the forgiveness period is huge, because many of our franchisees, when they got their PPP dollars, weren't even open. So they're going, well, what should I use this money on? Because I can't even open yet due to state and local guidelines.

So that's been a huge help. We don't see any of our facilities right now that are in a position to not reopen. We should be bringing back on 100% of our units here in the coming months, which we're really excited about.

RICK NEWMAN: Hey, Michael, Rick Newman here. I think parents might be interested to know if you've discovered any fun ways to get kids to wear masks and actually enjoy it to get them to do this. Have you come across anything like that?

MICHAEL BROWNING: Absolutely. I have an 8-year-old, a 5-year-old, and a 4-month baby. And my older kids, I found when you let them decorate their masks, it becomes a part of their attire. And so we bought a bunch of disposable mass for my own family. And the kids decorate them when they when they go out.

And so we're going to be implementing some of those things into the parks. Our mascot, Herby, is wearing a big mask. So that helps. And the other thing that we've seen is a lot of our staff and our franchisees are implementing face shields inside of the facility, which I love, because you can see our staff smile, and you can just see facial expressions. And so we've gravitated towards shields over masks. But coloring on masks has been huge for our consumer.

JULIE HYMAN: I might have to steal that idea for my own family. Michael Browning, thank you so much. You're the CEO of Urban Air, appreciate it.

MICHAEL BROWNING: Thanks for having me.