Adult recess

Eric Garland Fun, Retail Trends 5 Comments

I have a new idea for a business.

Here in St. Louis, we’re having the coldest winter in some time. It’s so cold that water vapor has been condensing into “snow” and “ice,” substances which leave my neighbors in great distress when it comes to driving, or keeping schools open. As such, people here are beginning to experience a strange feeling more normally associated with northern climes: cabin fever. Back in Vermont, where “frozen,” “dark,” and “existentially depressed” are normal things for February,  this is the time of the year we dream in earnest about moving to Maui or the Bahamas. One thing’s for certain – when the weather is like this for too long, chances are you’ve been spending too much time in the same room with the same people. You perceive a deep-seated need to get out and do something different.

And here is the root of my entrepreneurial inspiration.

The United States has approximately 23 square feet of retail space per capita, ten times more than most European nations with comparable standards of living. Commercial real estate in America is an absurdly overbuilt resource, one dependent on shaky retail models and Baby Boom consumption patterns. Much of it is sitting around producing no income. For example, Chicago apparently has 9.5 million square feet just hanging around unused, 175 empty big box spaces.

Empty Retail Space in America

So follow me on this one: adults need to get out and run around and burn off some energy. We’ve got a glut of retail space.

Adult Romper Room!

I say there’s an untapped market space for a business that does nothing but offer adults the opportunity to run around and blow off some steam. I’m thinking of a cavernous space with some soft carpeting or gym mats, full of opportunities for adults to play like we all used to on recess.

Let me be clear: I don’t mean a “health club.” Nobody needs another one of those around. I’m not talking about a place where you get dressed up in tight-fitting clothes and try to do some sweaty exercises to counteract all that sedentary computer jockeying, to little effect. No memberships, no sports drinks, no guilt, no showers required – I mean a play space for grown ups.

In my head, here’s what is available at Adult Recess:

  • Swing sets
  • Nerf football
  • Pugil sticks (for getting out aggression)
  • Lots of space to just walk around and think
  • Frisbees
  • No TVs or screens of any kind
  • Markers, stickers and paper for art projects
  • See-Saws built for people over 200 lbs
  • Badminton

We have an under-used suburban infrastructure that surrounds a people who suffer from obesity, depression, anxiety, and as of this winter, increasingly severe cabin fever. We need to run around and play. We are a people who long for levity and need physical activity.  I say we go back to an old concept: recess. Producing a little income for these retail caverns could stave off another banking collapse, too.

Where are my investors?