Building Business on the Fly
January 3, 2013
How Mobile Zip Lines Keep Guests Entertained
Amusement and entertainment companies are always in search of the next big thing that will attract customers. One of the new successes to hit the market in the past two years is the mobile zip line.
“Our zip line has increased our business by 25 percent,” said Deb Millward, who owns Vertical Edge Entertainment in Gobles, Mich., with her husband Jim. “It is a completely self-contained unit which allows us to take it easily to whatever event we have in our service area of Michigan, Illinois, Ohio and Indiana.”
Offering everything from rock climbing walls to mechanical bulls to Bonzi Bikes, Vertical Edge Entertainment books everything from the smallest private backyard parties to multi-day festivals and corporate events.
“We have a lot of attractions and the mobile zip line fits right in as long as the event has at least 200 feet of flat land to set up and run the attraction.”
As with most amusement companies, Vertical Edge Entertainment markets the zip line as a package with its other attractions. If an event is asking for climbing walls or rides or inflatables and Vertical Edge knows they have an abundance of land for the event, they will offer the zip line too.
“It is very convenient to take with us, and we already have a lot of manpower out there taking care of the other amusements, so the mobile zip line does fit in well with our operation,” Millward noted. “The zip line gives us another leg up on customer service and being the best we can be for all our existing and potential clients.”
An innovator for interactive attractions, Spectrum Sports saw the potential for mobile zip lines five years ago and has since become the world leader in the mobile zip line market.
“In 2008, we were approached by a customer at IAAPA who asked if we could build a mobile zip line,” explained Corey Hyer, sales manager for the Hyde Park, Utah-based Spectrum Sports International. “In 2008 and 2009, we developed concepts on how to build the zip line and then in 2009, we were able to build a prototype using different technologies.”
Through its research and testing, Spectrum Sports developed their patent-pending automatic brake system known as the auto-retract safety system. Research was also done into hydraulics and tower safety. In 2011, the company released its first mobile zip line.
“We were the first and we are the leader, but we welcome competition that comes to the market too,” Hyer said. “Safety has and always will be our first and foremost goal, and we are known for that, so competition will make sure that safety remains the number-one priority for everyone.”
Millward echoes Hyer’s view of safety. Although the system is easy to operate, it does require workers to raise the towers and set up the zip line, strap riders into the harness, test the harness, operate the zip line and undo the harness after the ride is over.
“I like that it does require a lot of people to operate because it only speaks about the safety of the attraction and how safe a mobile zip line truly is,” said Vertical Edge’s Deb Millward. “The zip line is very attractive to people because it pushes the envelope of adventure safely. People feel daring doing it and it gives those who ride it a nice rush, but they know in the back of their minds, they are still not in harm’s way. It’s just about fun.”
Greg and Lori O’Neal own G & R Rock Climbing Adventures. The operation is a true family affair that includes their daughter Heather Norsworthy and son Allen O’Neal as well as other family members.
“We provide quality entertainment across the southeast with bungee jumps, moonwalks and rock climbing walls, a wide variety of other amusements and now the mobile zip line,” said Greg O’Neal. “We cover everything from private parties and church events to corporate outings and festivals, and people always want to know what we have that is different. In this business, you always have to be ready to surprise, and the zip line does do that.”
O’Neal purchased his zip line in 2012 and began offering it as part of his amusement package to his clients.
“As long as they have ample flat land, we can bring it, but it does need 200 feet of flat land to be operational. The land has to accommodate the towers and zip line. It’s a self-contained unit to get where it needs to go, but it is an amusement that has to have room to spread out.”
O’Neal believes the zip line opens up a demographic that was lost in his business.
“We always have bounces for the very young and amusements that are good for adults but nothing that truly entertained the 18-25 year old, that college demographic was elusive, but the zip line took care of that. Schools and colleges love to have the zip line.”
O’Neal does not market the zip line separately. It is one of his many offerings to clients. It is easy to take along if a customer wants it because he always has the manpower to attend to it ready.
“It does take five to six people to operate it properly, but we have the people at events anyway,” he said. “My daughter Heather is the real zip line expert and she and my son might try to market it separately for events, and if they want to do that, they have my support. In less than a year, we have that zip line out there for almost every event possible with our other attractions. The younger adults especially just love it.”
Hyer agrees with O’Neal’s assessment of the growing popularity of the zip lines.
“It is a valuable piece of equipment for a full-service company,” he noted. “It is a great calling card to get one’s foot in the door for booking events. It’s not a fad product and we are seeing tremendous growth over the next five years as well.”
Self-dubbed Captain of Fun and President of Wisconsin-based Music on the Move PLUS, a premier entertainment provider in the Midwest, Taj Jordon sees zip lines fitting in well with companies that offer an array of other services and entertainment.
“We go throughout the Midwest and offer everything from DJ services to interactive games and attractions. So, to offer a mobile zip line makes sense,” he said. “People like to be daring. Our Dinner in the Sky attraction, which is a restaurant 180 feet in the air secured on a crane, proves this. It serves 22 guests who are strapped into seats for food, drink and music with a beautiful view. The zip line provides the same type of thrill, without the food.”
Jordan believes the $60,000 investment in his mobile zip line will pay off for him because he uses it as a way of getting the attention of potential clients.
“If you have a full-service entertainment company, it will help to make back the investment and then some but if you don’t, you need a lot of $5 rides to make a profit.”
Jordan acknowledged that the young adult crowd tends to love the zip line, and having that new demographic is helpful for his operation as well.
“College kids and late high school kids can’t get enough of the mobile zip line, but once they hit 30, they move away from the zip line as quickly as they can. But if you have other entertainment options, they find something else to do equally as fun.”
Zip Line Safety Musts
- Must have 200 feet of open, flat land.
- Must have five to six workers on zip line unit for harness checking and ride operation.
- Must make sure that there is sufficient clearance from trees and power lines to raise zip lines from unit.