With a 10-year-old son who needs a place to run around when it's cold outside, Heather Howe relies on Urban Air Adventure Park in Plymouth, where the boy can burn off energy on trampolines and other vigorous activities while she either relaxes or joins him.
"We've belonged there since they opened — it's just such a great place," said Howe, who lives in Plymouth.
But for now, it's unavailable. The indoor park is closed, along with other recreation centers, restaurants, gyms and theaters throughout the state, under Gov. Tim Walz's latest pandemic shutdown order. They'll stay closed until at least Dec. 18.
If the shutdown is extended beyond that, it may eventually go on too long for Lindsey and Wes Herold, owners of the Plymouth franchise.
The park opened over the summer, but customers were limited to a quarter of its usual 1,000-person capacity. Customers could reserve time slots online, but the park couldn't take as many walk-ins as it normally would. On busy weekends, Lindsey Herold said, "our management team turned away at least 25 to 40 people per hour."
Since the pandemic began, the park's monthly revenue has ranged from about half of normal when open at reduced capacity to zero when closed.
The Herolds intend to open their doors as soon as the state allows. But as the pandemic stretches on, they've started to wonder if, at some point, they'll have to close permanently.
"This month is scary," Lindsey Herold said. "When you have no revenue coming in, you have no means of paying rent or other bills."
The business has received some government loans and grants, but that money "runs out fast when you have expenses in the six digits every month," she said.
The Herolds, who live in Plymouth, opened their Urban Air franchise in May 2019, after spending two years constructing the 68,000 square-foot building and filling it with equipment. They set up trampolines, Go-Karts, climbing walls and attractions with daunting names like Leap of Faith, Battle Beam, Warrior Course and Wipeout.
"We have everything invested into our business … our time, money, heart and souls are into it," Lindsey Herold said. "To watch it fading is terrifying."
If they ever do close, her husband agreed, they have a lot at stake. "You don't just lose your business when something like this happens. You lose everything you have, because you have to put that up to open a business like this."
But "if the state doesn't open up more and allow for people to get out and about," she said, "then yes, it will be very concerning to many of us small business owners."
Staff members at several locations in Iowa and Wisconsin confirmed they are open, as did an employee in Texas, where there are more than 40 Urban Air locations and businesses statewide are allowed to operate at 50% to 75% capacity.
When the Plymouth facility was open at half capacity over the summer, the Herolds said they were meticulous about masks and social distancing. Employees regularly roamed the premises spraying a sanitizing mist, they said.
For Lindsey Herold, such precautions are already second nature.
She had a double lung transplant in 2016, a result of cystic fibrosis, a genetic lung disease. She takes medications to suppress her immune system, leaving her especially vulnerable to germs, including the coronavirus.
"Trust me, we are super empathetic for this whole COVID thing," she said. "It actually makes me feel better to see more hygiene done."
The Herolds are encouraging customers who want to support the business to buy gift cards and annual memberships (which wouldn't start until the facility reopens), and book birthday parties for 2021.
"We'll do everything we can to not ever close the doors," Wes Herold said.
Katy Read • 612-673-4583