When Yakima Valley families want to do something fun in the dead of winter, where do they go? When it’s 100 degrees and too hot to go to the park, what can they do?
More to the point, what is there for Yakima families to do that doesn’t cost an arm and a leg? The short answer is, “not much.”
Chris Perks and Anne Robinson are intent on changing that dynamic. The father-daughter duo are the brains behind Yakima Adventure Quest, a proposed all-weather, all-inclusive, family-friendly venue that could help solve an age-old conundrum in Central Washington.
“There are plenty of individual activities and you can go watch other people play,” Robinson said, “but there really isn’t anything around here that allows people to be active as a family. We want to provide something fun for people of all ages and ability levels where they don’t have to worry about the weather and they don’t have to spend a ton of money.”
The 33,000-square-foot facility — slated to be built on a two-acre site at South 16th Avenue and Valley Mall Boulevard — would house a wide range of activities for everyone from toddlers to senior citizens.
A walking path, kids’ play area and carousel would be available free of charge, surrounded by a series of paid attractions, none of which would break the bank.
Among the likely attractions will be a Rollglider (hanging roller coaster/zipline), electric go-karts, bumper cars, a high-rope course, a climbing wall, laser tag and a ninja training course.
Adventure Quest’s all-inclusive concept would allow a wheelchair-bound veteran to feel just as comfortable as a hard-core rock climber or ninja-in-training.
“We want to create an indoor gathering place that everyone in the community can enjoy,” said Perks, who suffers from multiple sclerosis and uses a wheelchair to get around.
“Everyone who lives here agrees that we need something like this, and there’s enough money around the Valley to help us build it. They raised millions of dollars for the plaza and the new YMCA, so why not this?”
Looking For Help
Perks and Robinson crafted their business plan earlier this year when they participated in the annual Enterprise Challenge contest, and they are seeking investors to help them carry out their vision. The initial price tag for Adventure Quest is estimated at $2.2 million, which would pay for the attractions, construction (plus debt service) and operations costs for one year.
At a cost of $10,000 per share, Perks and Robinson are hoping to entice community-focused individuals who can see the long-term benefits that a project of this magnitude could bring to the Valley.
The estimated monthly cost to operate the facility will be about $125,000, which will pay for expenses such as employee wages, utilities and insurance.
If the park were to attract 20 people per hour for 60 hours a week, even a moderate amount of paid attendance would create enough revenue for a quarterly return on investment (ROI) of $500 per share.
“On the low end, we’re estimating a dividend of about $2,000 per year,” Perks said. “We also expect to be a big draw for tourists, so that number could be much higher.”
Aside from talking to a small pool of local investors, Perks and Robinson have been working with service groups like Rotary and Yakima Kiwanis to help fund the walking path, kids’ play area and carousel.
The main selling point is the long-term value something like Adventure Quest could provide for the Yakima Valley.
“We’re not in this for the money,” Perks said. “Everything that comes in will be fed right back into the community. Plus, it will keep people’s entertainment dollars here, which helps the local business community.”
If everything goes according to plan, construction of Adventure Quest could begin in early 2020.
“It all depends on funding, but that seems realistic,” Perks said.
All In The Family
The Yakima Adventure Quest concept came about last summer when Robinson and her son, William, were staying at Ronald McDonald House in Portland.
William, 8, was suffering from a selective-eating disorder that caused his body to reject food. While William underwent daytime treatments at the Kartini Clinic, Robinson and her daughter, Graysen (then 6 years old), set out to explore the city. Her husband, Robby, would join them on the weekends.
One place the family kept going back to was PlayDate PDX — a larger, more modern version of the Kids’ Castle in Yakima that also features activities for adults.
During those eight weeks, Robinson started to think about how she could create something similar in her hometown. She and her kids also wanted to figure out a way they could be active with Perks and his wife, Christine.
“It was so nice to have a spot that was family inclusive,” said Robinson, a first-grade teacher at Hoover Elementary School. “The kids had a great time, but so did the parents. We started thinking about what we could do back home, and once my dad got involved, the idea just took off from there.”
Perks and Robinson teamed up to create a preliminary plan for an all-weather, all-inclusive activities center in Yakima. They entered the Enterprise Challenge last fall and started working with the Valley Mall on a potential site for Adventure Quest.
While they didn’t advance to the final round of the business plan contest, they came away with a wealth of knowledge. One of the ideas that grew out of the contest was pooling together a group of investors to share the startup costs — and reap the future rewards.
“Yakima deserves something like this, and there’s enough money in this Valley to make it happen,” Robinson said. “It’s just a question of what wealthy people want to do with their money. Do you want to let it sit in a bank account or make a difference? I’m not rich, but I know I would choose to make a difference.”
William and Graysen also have provided a great deal of input for Adventure Quest. They built a diorama with art supplies and dolls, mapping out what the facility might look like. The concepts have changed over time, but one idea has remained constant: “If we’re going to do this, Papa has to be involved,” the kids told Robinson.
“They just want everyone to play together and have a good time,” she added. “And that’s what me and my dad want, too.”
Learn more about Yakima Adventure Quest on Facebook.