Robinson teenager Kylee Hendrix has an edge over her competition as they start a game of capture the flag using Nerf Blasters.
With their backs pressed against opposing walls, members of the two teams brace for the announcer to start the game, preparing to duck and weave around blue and green inflatable barriers to get the flag and return it to their side first.
Breathless and barefoot, the employees of Spunky Sports Fun Zone are learning the games offered at the new venue in Hewitt before it opens to the public March 2.
Hendrix, 16, said her younger brother is obsessed with Nerf toys, and his passion equipped her with the knowledge to pick out the best Nerf Blaster for the games. She said she was job hunting when her mother saw the business at 123 N. Hewitt Drive was hiring. Hendrix, one of about 25 staff members, said the games appeal to her competitive nature, and she can see the arena being a fun after-prom party location.
Donna Dolly, 57, said she is opening the 10,000-square-foot Spunky Sports Fun Zone at 123 N. Hewitt Drive to create family memories.
“After all, they are all we have when someone passes,” Dolly said.
She and her husband, a 12-year U.S. Army veteran, moved from Louisiana to Waco in 2010 to be closer to their grandchildren. The next year, her husband was diagnosed with Lou Gehrig’s disease, or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, and died in 2013, she said.
His death put family time into perspective for Dolly, who said she wanted to create a venue to allow families to have fun together while they still can. Dolly said her four grandchildren, who are between four and 15 years old, are the joy of her life. She said she feels there are not many children’s activities on Hewitt Drive or in the area. Urban Air is popular and a good option, but it is hard on an older individual’s joints, Dolly said. She has never been able to play there, she said.
She tried out businesses similar to Spunky Sports in Kansas and Austin before moving forward with an opening in Hewitt.
“As long as you’re a kid at heart you can be out there,” she said. “I may not be as quick as the little ones, but I can play. Sure, I get hit with a Nerf dart, but it’s no big deal. The kids enjoy knocking me out of the game.”
Players in the mesh-enclosed arena wear goggles and vests with team colors as the fast-paced games rotate after each completion. Members race out of the “Blaster Arena” to “The Armory” to change out Nerf Blasters as they home in on the dart gun that best matches their skill set.
Staff member Alex Kelly, 15, of Bruceville, said he has not experienced any place like this. Kelly said he normally spends Saturday nights playing video games but would gladly switch to in-person competitive games.
Dolly’s grandson, 11-year-old Jonathan Mezzles, said his competitive streak can make it frustrating to be forced to the sidelines after being hit.
Dolly said she sought out respectful youth to fill her staff. She is creating a family-friendly location, and there will be rules, including rules prohibiting foul language and intentional head shots in the game, she said. Dolly said she expects every member of her staff to serve as role models for younger generations.
“When you’ve been blessed, you bless others,” she said.
The venue also includes space for large parties and inflatable games for younger children. Another fenced-in arena with foam padded floors will allow for quick, rotating games of dodgeball, soccer, street hockey and other activities.
Spunky Sports Fun Zone’s normal hours will be 4 to 8 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays, 4 to 11 p.m. Fridays, 10 a.m. to 11 p.m. Saturdays and 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Sundays. The regular price will be $10 an hour, and Mondays will be family night, with a flat rate of $35 for a family of four, plus $8 per additional family member.