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Trampolines used to be mostly about backyard recreation, but now trampoline parks have become increasingly popular.
A State Senate committee in Sacramento has unanimously approved a first-of-its-kind measure requiring stricter oversight of trampoline parks.
It would require the parks to have the same sort of safety standards as amusement park rides—like regular inspections and reporting of accidents to Cal-OSHA, the state's workplace safety agency.
The bill's author is Senator Ted Lieu (D-Torrance). He chairs the Senate Labor and Industrial Relations Committee, the panel that passed the bill on Wednesday.
If you’re wondering what a trampoline park is, you’re not alone.
“Many people you tell them about this and they’re like, ‘What?’” said Tom Paper, president of Think Before You Bounce, a trampoline park safety advocacy group. “And you say, ‘Well, they put all these trampolines together. It’s trampolines on steroids.”’
Trampolines have mostly used as backyard recreation, except for a brief commercial stint in the 1960s. The sport has bounced back big time recently.
“Trampoline parks are relatively new,” said Paper. “We didn’t see any in California five years ago.”
Companies with lofty names like Sky Zone, Sky High Sports, and Jump Street operate or franchise dozens of parks. Many more are on the way. Sky Zone is soon opening five more Southern California locations. But despite its growing popularity, the industry is unregulated.
“Parents are sending their kids to birthday parties at trampoline parks and they have no idea of the risks,” said Paper.
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics there were almost 98,000 trampoline-related injuries in the U.S in 2009. Many of accidents are minor, but not all.
Ty Thomasson broke his neck and died last year after landing in a foam pit that was too shallow at an Arizona trampoline park. His mother Maureen Kerley says the family is still grieving.
“We’re devastated and it’s hard for us to talk about it,” said Kerley “But I honestly believe the public needs to know.”
Kerley, who now lives near San Diego, is making it her mission to go state-to-state to advocate for trampoline parks inspections and regulations.
“You can make them safe,” said Kerley. “Not 100 percent safe, but still safe in terms of the design, construction and materials.”
Some trampoline park operators have complained the new rules would put them out of business—but Greg Briggs isn't one of them. His company just opened a 25,000 square-foot trampoline park in Laguna Hills called Big Air. He welcomes the possibility of oversight.
“I think it makes us a little bit better, although it is quite expensive to deal with the state on these kinds of things," said Briggs. “But it is a cost we are willing to absorb.”
The bill to regulate trampoline parks – SB 256 – moves next to the Senate Appropriations Committee.