Long before Gabby Douglas twisted, flipped and twirled to a gold medal in the Olympic all-around gymnastic competition in London this summer, two local entrepreneurs were preparing to open their second kids fitness facility.
Business partners Jedd Morin of Wilton and Kim Nezvesky of Norwalk opened their new Tumble Jungle in Norwalk just in time for the influx of children inspired by Douglas and other Olympic athletes. They are also the owners of Tumble Jungle in Newtown, which opened in 2007.
The Norwalk Tumble Jungle hosted an open house on Aug. 25 and officially opens its doors Sept. 4.
"We could not believe the turn out we got," said Morin, who was initially concerned that the Norwalk location would be difficult for people to find.
Its address is 250 Westport Ave., but it is not immediately visible. It is hidden in the County Mall shopping plaza about two-tenths of a mile east of Stew Leonard's.
Morin said there is often a 10 percent jump in interest during Olympic years but he and Nezvesky were still surprised by the steady stream of people who stopped by. They were also surprised to see the level of interest that was generated by one particular feature -- the zip line, which allows children to hold on to a movable line that coasts across one section of the gymnasium room. Then they jump into a colorful pit of soft, foam cubes.
"We were open for five hours and there was a 10-person minimum wait (for the zip line) for five straight hours. It was nice to see the kids liked that," Morin said.
Norwalk's Tumble Jungle will feature many of the same programs that are offered in Newtown including a gymnastics program -- "That's the big one," Morin said--karate classes, a soccer skills program, birthday parties and camps, but because it is more than triple the size (Newtown's Tumble Jumble has 3,000 square feet of space compared to Norwalk's 10,000 square feet) things will be different.
"It's very similar. It's just a much larger scale but intentionally so because it's a denser population," Morin said.
Newtown has one large gym room and they install an inflatable feature temporarily for special events whereas the Norwalk facility is so large that it has an entire inflatable room for play any time.
Brightly colored apparatus, mostly in primary colors of red, blue and yellow, include floor mats, in ground trampolines, gymnastics bars, a padded balance beam and other things to climb on, over and around.
Morin called Tumble Jungle a "hybrid" saying it is a combination of fitness and fun.
"We have structured programs that work on core skills for children and then general (unstructured) fun," he said.
Their classes sometimes use a specific sport to develop children's core physical competencies, while other times they work on general motor skills unrelated to a particular sport. Programs are available for children as young as infants.
"We start when they start walking," Morin said.
At the open house, Sheree James of Bridgeport and her 16-month-old son Devin, crawled through giant worm-like tubes, rolled on the floor and danced.
The adults were as enthusiastic about the new Tumble Jungle as the children.
"I think it's great. I like the variety of the gymnastics climbing equipment and the bouncing equipment," said Ann Day of Weston, who brought her daughter Katherine Day, 4 ½, to the open house.
"It's nice that they have something like this in Norwalk," said Christine Grey of Norwalk, who took her daughters Mackenzie, 3, and Kylee, 2, to the event.
Helen Nishi of Westport appreciated the liveliness of Tumble Jungle.
"I would definitely bring my child here. There's a lot to do. It keeps the kids engaged," Nishi said.
Fathers weighed in too. "Everything is new and the kids are having fun; beautiful colors," said Andrew Kiszkel of Norwalk, who accompanied his children Roxanna, 4, and Alex, 2, to the open house.
For more information about Tumble Jungle or to register for programs call 203-286-4608 or visit www.tumblejungle.net.