A businessman says he backed out of a plan to locate an indoor trampoline park in Asheville because of delays in getting city approval for the project. Chris Brown, owner of Velocity Air Sports, says he had planned to develop the facility at a site on Sweeten Creek Road, but scuttled the effort in favor of locations in cities that are more business-friendly.
“With all due respect, Asheville is the most difficult city I have ever experienced,” Brown says in an email to City Manager Gary Jackson. “We could not get basic answers to our key concerns for almost two months. In my industry, time is money, and I was left with no alternative but to walk away from Asheville and pursue more business friendly areas.
“I simply couldn’t risk more time and effort when the same amount of time and effort in other cities produces better results,” he says. “I’m not used to having issues getting a green light to proceed.”
Brown says he has developed 16 indoor trampoline parks in Nevada, Texas, Louisiana, Alabama, Arkansas, Kentucky, Tennessee, Georgia, South Carolina and Virginia. He says he invests an average of $1.8 million on each facility and each one employs 40 to 50 people.
“The Indoor Trampoline Park industry is a very fast growth segment whereby allocation of capital and allocation of time are the key decision points,” he says. “I started looking at Asheville and Charleston (South Carolina) for potential locations in March and was able to reach Letters of Intent on buildings in both cities in late April.”
Brown says he hired an architect who developed preliminary plans for the Asheville facility and scheduled a meeting with city officials to facilitate the development process. The developer, building owner and others involved in the project “provided any and all requested data and were still not able to receive a definitive commitment from the City as to their interpretation of our use/code analysis,” he says, until July 8.
By comparison in Charleston, according to Brown, it took one meeting in mid-May and “we were welcomed with open arms.” He says he received a permit to start construction on June 9, and opened the facility on July 31.
“In the lag time spent trying to get traction with the City of Asheville, I started looking in Jacksonville, Florida,” he says. “During that time, I was able to locate a building, negotiate a lease, and have a meeting with City officials in which I received commitments from them as to their requirements and interpretations on our use. We are starting construction there in early September as soon as an existing tenant vacates.”
Brown says he hoped his feedback “could help make it easier on other businesses attempting to locate a facility in Asheville.”