Playground Chain Discovers Bankruptcy

Despite its popularity among the single-digit set, indoor playground operator Discovery Zone on Monday filed for bankruptcy protection.

The company, which started in 1990 and now has about 350 outlets, said it grew too fast and will have to renegotiate rents on many of its storefronts and close other moneylosing centers.

Under the Chapter 11 bankruptcy law, the company will be able to continue operating while it revamps.

Wilma Tucker, who was hosting a fourth birthday party for her son at the Discovery Zone in a suburb of Jacksonville, Fla., said she was surprised to hear the news as the center bustled with kids.

After Cameron Tucker finished romping with his pals over the maze of tunnels and slides, and tumbling into a room filled with plastic balls, the party ended with pizza and cake.

“The kids love it, they have a blast,” Cameron’s mother said. “I would definitely do it again.”

Part of Discovery Zone’s problem may be that it caters almost exclusively to younger children.

The centers appeal to a very narrow slice of the population - a group that depends on adults to get them to the store and spend money, said family entertainment consultant William Haralson.

“It’s a lot of fun, but it’s more fun for the kid than the guy trying to make a living running the thing,” said Haralson.

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