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Business Spotlight: Running Wild

Fritz's Adventure attracts 500,000 explorers in first two years, owners say

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Last edited 8:39 a.m., March 11, 2019

The thrill of adventure doesn’t have an age cap. Fritz’s Adventure LLC aims to bring out the child in each of its visitors.

The three-story entertainment center boasts 80,000 square feet of mazes, tunnels and other play spaces in a similar vein to St. Louis’ City Museum.

The venue opened in November 2016 at 1425 W. Highway 76 in Branson across the street from Dick Clark’s American Bandstand Theater and Dolly Parton’s Stampede.

Fritz’s founder and CEO Matt Engram’s Branson-based company, Matt Engram Construction Co., led construction work for Fritz’s, in partnership with H Design Group LLC for the $10 million project. It’s owned by investor group Fritz’s Adventure-Branson LLC, of which Engram is a member.

Its name is inspired by “The Swiss Family Robinson” character Fritz.

“He was the epitome of adventure. He was always looking for something new,” Engram says. “We use the phrase ‘find your Fritz.’”

Engram says approximately 500,000 patrons have come through the building since its opening. He declined to disclose revenues.

The vision for Fritz’s originated from a family discussion with Engram’s sons and wife Amy.

“I’m a contractor by trade and I have a family of five boys, and one of my boys’ favorite things to do is come to work with me and run around the job site,” Engram says.

The whole idea came from sitting down with his boys and putting everything the family liked do into one building.

“We wanted to key in on the sense of discovery,” he says.

Adventurous
Engram says the entertainment center is full of challenges and exploration.

Fritz’s has a 40-foot rope course, wall climbing, underground tunnels, zip lines, container mazes and a laser maze.

“It’s kind of ‘Mission Impossible’-esque, traveling from point A to point B avoiding lasers,” he says of the laser maze.

The container mazes are built from salvaged parts, Engram says, with the inspiration for the maze coming from his sons climbing on similar structures on his construction company’s job sites.

A World War II-era plane resides 30 feet in the air, allowing users to simulate piloting a flight.

“You can move the flaps, pedal and make the landing gear move. And it has air chatter,” Engram says.

The venue has a three-tiered outdoor climbing wall, dubbed Via Ferrata, after the climbing technique of Italian soldiers during World War I, and an interactive floor with a projector screen that keys in on different motions.

Activities on the floor include soccer and a balloon-popping game.

The venue’s newest amenity is Fritz’s Aerodium, which opened in June 2018 and provides the feeling of skydiving mere feet off the ground. Participants sit through a “flight school training” program and sign a waiver before attempting the Aerodium.

“It’s an outdoor wind tunnel. Anyone can do it ages 4 and up,” Engram says. “We’ve had people call it a skydiving simulator. People typically purchase two minutes. That’s the equivalent to two 10,000-foot skydives.”

Fritz’s pricing ranges between $15 and $30 for a single-day pass. The center employs 50 people.

More than fun
It’s not just fun and games at Fritz’s.

The venue partners with nonprofit Cherish Kids – a subsidiary of James River Church Inc. – for Cherish Kids Day, which had its second iteration on Feb. 10.

The event allows free admission for foster and adopted children.

“They contacted us last year, heard about our organization and they heard the numbers,” says Irina Coombes, administrative assistant for Cherish Kids, which provides placement assistance in adoptions.

In Taney County’s Children’s Division, she says there are 349 children needing homes and only 29 foster homes currently on the roster.

“They wanted to know how they could help,” Coombes says.

There were over 700 people in attendance for the second Cherish Kids Day event, she says.

“We had an amazing turnout,” Coombes says. “It’s been an awesome opportunity. Their partnership is invaluable.”

Cherish Kids is looking at doing another event in the fall at Fritz’s.

Home School Day is another event where Fritz’s engages the community by offering a $12 ticket to home-schooled children and their parents.

“Once a month, we open up the facility at a reduced price,” Engram says. “Our goal is to have everyone be able to experience Fritz’s Adventure.”

Fritz’s also works with Missouri State and Drury Universities for advertising programs and student-athlete retreats.

“We do some advertising through them, especially at Missouri State,” Engram says. “We give away a family four pack at home games, and part of it is inviting student-athletes down for events.”

He says Drury’s baseball team visited last year for a team-building event.

“What’s interesting to see is 22 macho athletes squeal like girls when they get to the third level of the climbing wall,” Engram says.

Future plans for Fritz’s are to expand to new markets. Engram is eyeing Dallas, Atlanta, Chicago and the San Francisco Bay Area. One of those, in the Bay Area, could be a corporate retreat event venue.

“We love metropolitan areas,” he says.

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