Front Row Seat: High ropes challenge course would offer many pluses for Aurora

by MIKE LESKO | REPORTER Published:

The idea for a high ropes challenge course in Aurora was suggested by Pete Conces, chairman of the city's recreation advisory committee, and Parks-Recreation Director Jim Kraus followed up on it.

Now, GoApe, which uses zip lines and has six locations -- none in Ohio -- appears headed to Aurora.

Kraus said GoApe would charge admission, but the city would benefit from it on a percentage basis. He said specifics are still being worked out.

It is a great situation for Aurora. GoApe would handle the details of running the operation but still give the city a percentage of the profits. How can you beat that?

In 2012, Conces attended a National Recreation and Parks Association conference on behalf of the city of Beachwood, where he is recreation supervisor.

"At the time I ran into this company, the recreation advisory board and recreation department [in Aurora] were looking into the idea of possible ropes courses somewhere inside our parks," Conces said.

"[GoApe's] approach to developing a turn-key operation at no cost to the park district that they partner with was very unique," he said. "Plus they fit all of the sustainable models that our city strives to attain and would generate revenue back to the parks and recreation department."

It could be set up by early summer, or at least early fall.

After Conces presented the information to Kraus, Conces said, "Due to [GoApe's] intentional slow-growth model, they took the better part of the next year to come out and meet Jim to determine if our park was a good fit."

KRAUS SAID, "We were just waiting for them to say if they wanted to come [here] or not. They finally said, 'We're in; we want to come to Aurora.'"

Aurora is fortunate to be in such a situation. It is likely that GoApe officials looked at plenty of potential sites, but Aurora is one that was selected.

GoApe officials picked a site located in the trees on the northeast corner of Sunny Lake -- to the east of the existing north parking lot, Kraus said.

"Thankfully, due to our outstanding park terrain and our location, we appeared to fit the perfect model they desired in this area," Conces said, noting GoApe would only need a small parking lot and a small building.

Conces believes it would draw a relatively small amount of people per hour, "so there would not be a worry about overcrowding in the park or the parking lot. You'd probably only have about six cars there at a time, and it rotates [hourly]."

Conces believes the GoApe facility would be a money maker for the city, including attracting out-of-towners who would stay at Aurora hotels.

"With proper marketing, this could be a great draw to the city for those in the entire state, bringing in those crucial 'leisure dollars' we used to see much more frequently," he said.

Conces is correct. GoApe would potentially be a terrific benefit by attracting people to the city's restaurants and hotels. Kraus said there is nothing similar to it in Northeast Ohio that he is aware of.

"Akron and Cleveland are [close by], and you'd pick up universities and everyone else [as potential customers]," Kraus said, adding GoApe likes being in public park settings. "This company is more than sensitive to the woods element. The intent is to not take out trees."

CONCES SAID he had the opportunity to experience a true zip line in the Hocking Hills area with his daughter in 2007 when she was about 12. "It was one of the most amazing and exhilarating experiences I have had in years," he said.

"Although the GoApe challenge course will not be the exact same type of experience, participants will still have the opportunity to experience some fun zip lines while traversing some great tree bridges and ropes courses," he added.

Conces' description certainly makes the course sound like a lot of fun.

The idea will require approval by City Council.

Conces said as a parks and recreation professional, he likes to see experiences as value driven. "In this case, the values provided to our community are health driven," he said. "People of all ages will be given the opportunity to get outside and exercise in their own park system.

"To see the park in a way that they have never seen it before. To challenge themselves to climb that ladder, scale that suspended bridge between trees and to attach themselves to a zip line and fly among the trees.

"Exercise in an outside environment is something as a society we are lacking, and this facility will provide us with one more reason to get out and stay fit and healthy while having a blast with our family and friends."

Kraus said it is a win-win situation. He's right.

"We've got somebody who is experienced [operating the facility], and we get revenue from it," he said.

Email: mlesko@recordpub.com

Phone: 330-541-9400 ext. 4187

Facebook: facebook.com/mike.lesko.378

Twitter: Mike Lesko@MikeLesko_RPC

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