My review of Bounce Empire, where kids could splat

I just came back from a birthday party that I hosted for my (as of today) 5-year old at Bounce Empire:

Bounce Empire is an enormous facility full of fun and food. It was really great and so I give it an A-, and I’ve never rated anything an “A” or “A+” yet, so they got the highest rating I’ve ever awarded so far.

That said, here are some things I think they need to think about:

When I was a kid, I was always told that I “can’t climb on” this or that. That’s the opposite of what happens at Bounce Empire. Many of the inflatable attractions require the kids to climb up something (a ladder, or a ramp, a wall) and then slide down. Parents have their own private areas away from the kids. It’s all laid out specifically to allow kids to play while the parents can sit in a massage chair in a quiet room or at the 21+ bar which has an outdoor terrace.

The problem is that in a facility that encourages unsupervised kids to climb. But the members of the safety guardrails are all horizontal, creating a “ladder effect.” These types of guardrails are already dangerous, but particularly dangerous at Bounce Empire where kids are encouraged to climb things and parents are in another area watching sports on a big-screen TV in a reclining chair.

A few other things that management might want to think about:

  • Each private party room has a nice counter for food, drinks, birthday cakes, etc. There are hand wash stations and paper towel dispensers. But the trash can is on the opposite side in each room. So you have to walk through your crowd to dispose of the trash from the food and the paper towels.

  • I brought an ice cream birthday cake (in a box) for the party, but Bounce Empire would not put it in their refrigerator (perhaps some health or insurance policy) while the kids played and so it was somewhat melted by the time we needed it.

  • The quiet recliner room for adults is very relaxing. Some of the adults in the room were even asleep. But every time the announcement speaker came on it caused everyone to jump up as it was way, way, too loud. Turn it down in those areas where you worked so hard to create a peaceful ambiance.

  • The inside of the bathroom doors had a sign that told employees they must wash their hands before returning to work and above each sign was their food menu. Separate those two. Marketing 101.

  • The big screen TVs had commercials for food served at competing nearby restaurants instead of what great food was available inside Bounce Empire. If you have customers sitting in front of big screen TVs, periodically roll a quick commercial that alerts everyone to what all the facility offers, especially in the way of food.

  • The cost was high, but that isn’t the problem with their pricing system. Every member of my party got a band around their wrist that allowed them to enjoy any of the inflatables (each person is billed per hour, every hour) plus any food they ate, plus any drinks the ordered, plus special socks (that you have to buy), etc… all billed to my tab through the bands worn by my guests. Yes, again, it was pricey. I paid more than $1,500 for 6 mom’s and 10 young kids. But that’s not what I think the issue is. I think the issue for most mothers hosting a birthday party where the host is paying for everything, is the fear of the unknown. The host has no way of knowing just how big the final bill is going to be. I would change the entire billing model to a high flat fee ($75/head?) with all the pizza and drinks the kids can eat. Seriously, how much could they eat? The average person is risk-adverse and would rather pay exactly $75/head than $20/hour/head. The other way to do it is keep the existing fee structure but add a very-advertised cap. People like certainty in costs.

  • The place is noisy. The loud music isn’t needed for kids who are already getting enough stimulation from the giant colorful inflatables that they are playing in and on. A Waldorf school teacher could explain better than I can.

  • There aren’t enough “Mom, I want to go back and do” attractions. Most are what I call “once-and-done.” I know a bit about kids and playgrounds. If they want kids to beg their mothers to return, they need to make a few changes in that area. I know what to do but it would take pages for me to explain.

  • It’s scary for some kids (and some parents). Those kids want to make eye contact with their parents and get an nod of approval when they sense something might not be safe. Other kids want to run back to their parents and tell them about what big thing they did. I realize some parents want to use Bounce Empire as a babysitting service while they watch the game, sit in the massage chairs, or have dinner and a drink. But some parents want to be down on the floor with the kids. I would put some comfortable chairs in the center of it all where such parents (like me) can hang out with their kids. Especially if Bounce Empire is going to charge by the hour. I mostly had to stand the entire time. I’d have stayed longer (and you could have billed me more) if I had a comfortable seat inside the area where the kids are playing.

  • The elevator must only be there to comply with ADA, because it felt like a 10 minute ride to go one floor. I had to use it to haul a sleeping toddler up to our private party room. It reminded me of those super slow, residential air-compressor elevators. Before the doors opened, I actually thought it might be stuck. I suggest installing a funny sign in the elevator that says: “Notice: Our slides are fast, but this elevator is slow. Hang in there.”

  • And lastly, adults want to gather, watch their kids, and talk with each other. Anyone I’m inviting to a party is likely someone I know and want to chat with. I even like chatting with strangers who have kids. But the lack of soft chairs (some stools on the edge of the floor, I recall) down inside where our kids where, combined with loud music, made it impossible for Bounce Empire to also be a fun place for parents who want to be in proximity to their children and chat. There is a reason public parks with playground equipment for kids also have benches and tables for adults, nearby.

In summary, it seems it was designed for wealthy parents who have kids, love their kids, but don’t actually want them around.

That all said, I still award it an A-. Bounce Empire has a lot going for it, including the overall concept.

Nick Gromicko


This is AWESOME and exactly what I do every time I go to an “event” or business with my kids. And I have four and have been to my share. I range from thinking, “Wow, this place is alright,” to “WOW, how has a child not been killed here?” The safety/logistical things in these places crack me up… some things are just such “low-hanging fruit.” Of course, there’s the obligatory “gym sock” smell… and usually $2 worth of 7-11 pizza for sale for $17 but past that stuff the way they are laid out is crazy at times. I live in Maui and the go-to bounce place is open air… and kind of open door. They do a decent job checking people in and giving wristbands, etc. but at pickup time it’s kind of a free-for-all and I’m pretty sure I could take any kid I want as the gate just gets opened and everyone is free to come in/out. Thankfully, my kids are all nearly teens so I don’t worry too much about them but if I had a little one I’d be a bit concerned.


So, when are you buying Bounce Empire Nick?


They’ll have their ass handed to them in a lawsuit when one of those kids goes “splat”.

That is my issue with a similar concept nearby. When I take my grandkids, I want to watch them play, have fun and take a few photos while they are young. Therefore, it is not my favorite place to take them and I tend to look for other venues.