Play Hard, Have Fun
By Laura Jean Whitcomb
Joe Roberts II had an idea for an indoor activity center 15 years ago. The Grafton, N.H., resident envisioned a place where families could spend the day playing games and sports. Roberts, already a businessman with several companies, asked his marketing department for a demographic analysis of the area. Their answer? Not enough people to make the idea financially viable.
So Roberts moved on to another idea, which was turning an old manufacturing building into a storage facility. In 2008, when he was faced with the decision of laying off employees at his construction company, he decided to move ahead with his original vision. Construction started in February 2009 and the Competition Complex in Canaan, N.H., opened in June.
“Kids spend too much time twittering, too much time on computers,” he says. “I wanted to create a ‘stealth’ exercise program.”
Kids can quickly work up a sweat without realizing it. There are two batting cages (one for baseball, one for softball), two basketball hoops (one set at NBA regulation height), a dodge ball arena and an 18-foot indoor rock climbing wall. Those less athletically inclined could indulge in a round of ping pong or 18 holes of mini-golf. For the toddler set, there’s a playground surrounded by a padded floor. Parents can get right into the thick of it, or supervise from a chair on the deck — built to resemble a patio overlooking a backyard.
The kids won’t notice that there is no rain, no sunburns and no black flies at the Competition Complex. They also won’t notice that it’s a safe environment — there is always someone by the rock climbing wall to help with the safety belays and always a second person on the floor. They will notice that the activities change frequently. A dance machine was later replaced by an Xbox. Large foam building blocks were added to the playground area. The ping pong table was moved from the back to the middle, and a second ping pong table was added.
“It’s based on my short attention span,” says Roberts. “After five minutes I’m usually looking around for something else to do.” He has plans for a mechanical bull, indoor horseshoe pits, an exercise program and additional climbing walls. “Or how about virtual golf machines and a private lounge out back? Or an activity field with an exercise program based on a military boot camp — things to crawl over, things to crawl under, a rope to climb up. All these things will help kids with their social development. You don’t get that hanging around a computer.”
And, so far, the Competition Complex idea has been financially viable. “I’m building a model,” he says. “Once it proves out I’ll run out a buy a few more buildings.”
The Roberts family provides plenty of ideas. He has three children living in New Hampshire — one son, Joey, is the general manager — and five granddaughters and four grandsons. Roberts loves his family time, and wants the same for others. “We hope that people come to the Competition Complex to have fun and play hard. Activities are based on four Fs: fun, family, fatigue…and I forgot the fourth one.”
It might be food; Roberts has plans for a “deli on steroids” with sandwiches, burgers and hot dogs.
Competition complex is located on Route 4 in Canaan. It is open Wednesday and Thursday from 12 to 8 p.m.; Friday and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.; and Sunday 12 to 6 p.m. Learn more at mountainmeadowfunplex.com
Originally published in the winter 2010 issue of Kid Stuff