As printed in the January, 2017 issue of the international amusement sector magazine, Interfun.
Ropes courses have been a presence in the industry for decades but have recently experienced an upsurge in interest thanks to the significance that today’s parents place on keeping their kids active.
Ropes Courses, based in the US state of Michigan, has been designing and manufacturing courses for companies worldwide since 1989 and so knows better than most the appeal that this unique form of attraction holds. “A ropes course attraction delivers safe, in-the-air excitement and has multi-generational appeal,” said marketing manager Lori Gunthorp.
“It is a physical play environment that can attract and sustain the screen-obsessed child. You see a lot of friendly interaction between strangers as people encourage one another to try something new or conquer their fear of heights, Participants who may have been uncomfortable at the start become ecstatic that they challenged themselves to experience the ropes course. Coordination, stealth and strategy are all part of what makes it so exciting.
The company started its life as an idea in the head of owner Jim Liggett, whose passion for adventure products began in 1982 when he operated a zip line course Over 30 years later, Ropes Courses has honed its abilities in the field creating tree-to-tree design concepts to suit a wide range of indoor and outdoor venues.
Each course is composed of steel, plumber (a wood, fiber and plastic composite material) and combi-rope to maintain longevity, durability and structural integrity. To take part, participants are outfitted with a full body harness, with sling lines inserted into an overhead track. Participants are able to move up and down between the ropes course levels and traverse each element by walking, balancing or climbing.
“The experience is driven by you,” said Gunthorp, “meaning participants choose their own path through the course, and they have the ability to pass others at each platform.”
The company’s signature product, the Sky Trail range, encourages physical participation and is aimed at getting kids and their families involved.
Courses are available for both outdoor and indoor locations and are often tailored to the unique requirements of each location. “The Sky Trail® Discovery and Sky Trail® Navigator ropes courses are very popular for FECs because their equilateral triangle pole structures are ideal areas with limited space,” said Gunthorp. Customers with much more floor or land space often go with a Sky Trail® Explorer ropes course because it has the ability to grow four levels and beyond, making it a perfect fit for sites with significant amounts of traffic, indoors and out.”
“The Sky Rail™ zip line is one of our most sought-after features because of its seamless integration with the ropes course, participants never have to unhook their redundant sling lines and can zip over and over. Zip lines have a special allure because customers don’t see them every day, let alone inside their local bowling alley or on a cruise ship. Indoor zip lines are not common and these attractions maximize thrill with minimum space requirements.”
Rather than develop a one-size-fits-all product, Ropes Courses takes pride in its personable approach to design. Each product is constructed to the specifications of the client, resulting in a unique course every time. “We discuss their building plan, desires and budget for the project and then match their business needs to the right Sky Trail® attraction.
“Site plans are reviewed and a designer renders a drawing to ensure that the course will t the customers space. The customer chooses the colors that they want and any additional theming, an African safari or pirate theme, for example, to match their business style. Our designers select the elements for each course, with over 300 different combinations to choose from.
The designers carefully select elements to give a variety of activities without repetition and use elements of varying difficulty to provide the best flow for participants. We’ve never had a customer call back disappointed with the selection they received.”
Ideal for adventure facilities, malls, zoos, FECs, resorts and cruise ships, the company’s courses are now at over 600 installations and counting. Among its satisfied customers, Ropes Courses can include Drayton Manor Theme Park in Staffordshire, UK, Great Notley Country Park in Essex, UK, Alpsee Immenstadt Tourism in Immenstadt, Germany, Main Event Entertainment in Florida, US, and Hattiesburg Zoo in Mississippi, US.
Clearly, the worldwide allure of thrilling out-of-home experiences is high and no amount of HD video games is a substitute for the limitless creativity on offer with the industries brightest innovators.