G6 Airpark owner responds to criticism over reasons for closing

Wesley Dameron plans a new business in 2020 featuring more extreme sports options, but aimed more at adults

VANCOUVER — For a guy who bills himself as a Millennial Communication Specialist, Wesley Dameron has found himself doing a lot of explaining to millennials this week.

“I honestly did not expect the negative response, based on my personal experience,” Dameron told ClarkCountyToday.com by phone Friday. “But, I guess that’s how it goes.”

The Vancouver G6 Airpark features massive trampolines for children to play on. Photo courtesy g6airpark.com
The Vancouver G6 Airpark features massive trampolines for children to play on. Photo courtesy g6airpark.com

Dameron is the owner and founder of G6 Airpark, popular for its “Extreme Trampoline Sports.” In a video announcement on the company’s website, he announced that both the Vancouver and Portland locations would be closing within the next month. The Vancouver location opened in 2011, with the Portland spot following two years later.

“With only having trampolines, G6 Airpark in its current incarnation just isn’t worth the time investment any more, and I think you’d be interested to know why,” Dameron says in the video. “We live in a part of the US where there is an extraordinary problem with parents — especially Millennial parents — not taking responsibility for their decisions or actions,” he says in the statement. “In fact, this a problem across the US and is manifested by our ridiculously litigious society. If you get hurt, it’s always someone else’s fault.”

In his interview with ClarkCountyToday.com, Dameron did not apologize or back away from the comments, though he was quick to say he’s surprised at the backlash for what he calls a personal viewpoint. “For me, personally, I don’t think that the direction we’re headed in as a culture in regards to how we raise our children is appropriate,” he says. “I think it could be improved. That’s me as a dad.”

As news of the closure, and Dameron’s reasons for it, spread online, dozens of people took umbrage with the characterization of millennials and their parenting skills, or lack thereof. The millennial age group is considered to be those born between 1981 and 1996, which makes them between the ages of 22 and 37 in 2018.

“I’m sad to hear you’re closing for the next 1.5 years, but even sadder to hear that you chose this opportunity to take a dig at and place the blame with Millennial parents,” said Cassia Mark on the company’s Facebook page, “That isn’t a good business tactic and even though I’m not a Millennial, from this stance you’ve chosen I will choose not to visit the new establishment. You’re shooting yourself in the foot here and not gaining any sympathy points.”

“You can’t attack your customers and employees and then expect people to be nice,” added Samantha Lord.

Children play on the ninja course at the G6 Airpark in Portland, which is closing June 16. Photo courtesy g6airpark.com
Children play on the ninja course at the G6 Airpark in Portland, which is closing June 16. Photo courtesy g6airpark.com

But plenty of other people, especially former employees, took time to post their support of both Dameron and G6 Airpark.

“As someone who has worked with millennials for a long time I think he makes some valid points,” said Chelsea Early, “There is a mentality amongst most, not all, that can be challenging for any business to adapt to. Millennial parents are no exception.”

Mackenzie Lynch said she’d worked for Wesley and his wife for four years. “I appreciate that you were honest with the community about the issues you have, and will face in this business. Thank you for always putting others above yourself and teaching us how to grow! I can’t wait to see what you have in store next.”

Lawsuit-happy millennial parents weren’t the only thing taking the fall in Dameron’s mind for his decision to close G6 Airpark. He also blasted the move to increase the minimum wage to $15 an hour. Portland’s minimum wage will hit $12 an hour next July.

“Based on my research and a study out of the University of Washington, there’s some statistics that show it’s actually harmful for the young adults that it’s trying to help,” he told ClarkCountyToday.com, “and an additional unintended consequence is that I think it puts some pressure on small business.”

Dameron also took aim at paid sick leave for part-time workers, which is now mandatory in Oregon and Washington. “‘Sick leave’…  which is being paid to part-time high school students with no experience and no skill set. I’m at a loss…” he says in the statement.

Those increasing costs, along with the legal problems, have been eating into the bottom line of the business.

“We’ve been very blessed and fortunate to have been in the black for many, many years. It’s important for us to be diligent with how we operate, and one of our challenges is that we see shrinking margins,” says Dameron. “We have to have margin to fulfill our mission, and as we see these margins shrink sometimes it can feel like … you end up being in business just for the opportunity to pay taxes and insurance, and quite frankly you’re going to see lawsuits, and litigation, and demand. That can take a lot of the passion and a lot of the gusto out of the entrepreneurial spirit.”

Children enjoy the ‘Trick Zone’ at G6 Airpark which is closing later this month. Photo courtesy g6airpark.com
Children enjoy the ‘Trick Zone’ at G6 Airpark which is closing later this month. Photo courtesy g6airpark.com

Despite his complaints, Dameron says this isn’t the end. He plans to open a new business called G6 Sport sometime in 2020. The planned $10 million, 55,000-square-foot facility will still include a trampoline park, but also a roller rink, laser tag, rock climbing, ninja training, and “an awesome restaurant for adults with adult refreshments”.

That part of the announcement had plenty of people shaking their heads, given Dameron’s earlier complaints about his frustrations with living in “a part of the country where the legal system and insurance companies are incentivised to default against companies that provide extreme or risky activities. You know, things that are fun.”

But the 38-year old entrepreneur says he’s got that figured out.

“When you have more opportunities to generate revenue through different streams, you mitigate your risk of a declining margin that will disallow you to work through those lawsuits,” he says. “If you generate more money, those lawsuits become worth the headache because you can hire staff to deal with it, and you can take away resources from your operations to, quite frankly, face the huge time sink that these demands require.”

Dameron isn’t tipping his hand yet about where the new location will be built, but he says he’s definitely ruled out the city of Portland, due to their increasingly high development fees and the aforementioned minimum wage increases. “I’ve done business in Portland for a long time, at least five years, and it just presents challenges that … there are other cities that might make more sense for us.”

And, given that millennials are infamous for their short attention spans, maybe a year and a half will be long enough for them to forget what he said about their lack of parenting skills before the new business opens. Just don’t expect Dameron to be apologizing for hurting their feelings.

“The attitude of parents in general is not taking as much responsibility as they had in previous generations,” he says, “And I think we’ve seen some indicators of that behavior in the underlying identity nationally in our culture.”

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