Longtime Roller-Skating Operator
Jumps into Zero Gravity Adventure Park
by Matt Harding
With about 30 years in the amusement business, Ed Golebiowski was certainly ready for the leap into a new venture in 2022. He’d operated a Minneapolis area roller skating rink for most of those three decades as the general manager, aside from a stint in the corporate world.
Having started in the business in high school back in 1991, he ended up running a couple of locations for many years before leaving for the insurance industry. “There was always a piece of me that was missing the joy of the entertainment industry,” he explained, noting that he came back into the roller-skating world in 2012.
Just prior to the Covid pandemic, he had a deal in place to purchase the rink that fell through. That may have turned out to be a good thing. “Covid hit the Minneapolis area very hard,” he explained. “Big Thrill Factory closed. We had a couple of independent trampoline parks close in the area. We went from five roller rinks to two.”
As luck would have it, Golebiowski met Scott Nagel, the owner of Zero Gravity Adventure Park (located in Mounds View, just north of the Twin Cities) at an arcade auction, bidding against each other for games. With Ed wanting to get into the business and Scott wanting to get out, it was a perfect match.
Golebiowski bought Zero Gravity on Jan. 1, 2022 (the facility first opened in 2011). “It just took off,” he gushed. “It’s been an incredible run for the past two years.”
The first order of business was investing more in the 4,500-sq.-ft. arcade, growing it from about 25 games to around 60. Before, it was all older games run on tokens and tickets with a small prize counter.
Golebiowski bought new pieces and took advantage of top-quality used games, too, buying up some from the closed GameWorks facility at Mall of America. He added Intercard for his card system, bought new LED display cases from Coast to Coast; BMI is the prize counter vendor.
“For me, that’s been an absolute thrill to work with those guys,” he said. “It’s made my job so much more efficient.”
The entire center comes in at approximately 25,000 sq. ft. Above the arcade, there’s an aerial challenge course. Revenue-wise, trampolines are still the primary attraction and earner, followed by laser tag and the arcade.
Zero Gravity features 65 open-jump trampoline beds, a “tot jump” space for the little kiddos with 12 beds and two dodgeball courses. There’s also a three-story playground and rock-climbing wall.
The 4,000-sq.-ft. laser tag arena by Creative Works was recently in the process of being updated and their LaserBlast system was upgraded in 2022.
They’ve also added some unique attractions like a cotton candy vending machine that allows patrons to order different shapes and colors. “We’re the only place in the area that has something like that,” Golebiowski said. “That’s become more of an experience piece.” The same goes for a Skittles vending machine.
SpongeBob SquarePants VR: Dynamic Duo from Creative Works is another attraction piece and one of their most popular games. “In my mind, that was a huge gamble, but it’s a top earner. We integrate that with our birthday parties.”
Back in the arcade, other popular games include King of Rings from Smart Industries, Cut 2 Win from Pipeline Games and other cranes. Zero Gravity has about 75% redemption, 15% merchandisers and 10% video and other (pinball is in there “for the dads,” he noted).
About the Coast 2 Coast display cases, Golebiowski said: “When I sent that check I thought I was nuts, but it’s the focal point of the building.”
Next up for the biz is adding food and beverage. For now, it’s vending machines and the like. They also have slushies. They’re going to keep it simple and stay on the concession side of things.
“Our birthdays have been incredibly strong, even with the bring-your-own-food option we offer,” he said. “Moving into F&B is the next natural progression for us.” That’s set to happen in the first quarter of 2024, along with the conversion of birthday spaces into glow spaces to allow for some unique parties. The venue also hosts school fundraising events, field trips, corporate parties, team building, bar mitzvahs and many other events.
“The party business is a huge growth area for us,” Golebiowski explained. “I’ve got a very unique approach that I carried over from the roller-skating world.” He offers free rebates for fundraisers and similar events and makes money with add-on packages.
The busy time for Zero Gravity is typically during the school year from October to May. “We had a great winter business-wise due to one of the snowiest winters on record,” he shared of the 2022-23 year. “And the snow didn’t come on the weekends, so luckily no canceled birthday parties.” Of course, in Minnesota, “Once it got nice out, poof, people just disappeared.”
There are two other trampoline parks in the area, Urban Air and another one right near Zero Gravity. As Golebiowski notes: “I love being the independent operator. We’re not a corporate entity or franchise.
“I think there’s room to grow in this space,” he continued. “I’m seeing that some other local parks are starting to evolve a bit so it’s fun to stay one step ahead.”
To learn more, visit www.zerogravitymn.com.