When you enter ExerBlast, the new family-fitness facility on Reade Street, you’re journeying to the planet Botania, where the local plant people (Xri, pronounced shree) need your help: Their xi (kai) energy is waning, and to restore it, you have to run, jump, dance, climb, and do all sorts of other stuff. An iPod pedometer app—you wear the device on a belt—keeps track of your steps. “Rather than controlling Mario, you are Mario,” says FiDi resident Kate Gyllenhaal, co-founder and chief fun officer. (“If you’re not having fun, it’s my fault.”)
Gyllenhaal (above) and a good friend, Susan Jennings, came up with the concept five years ago. They were collaborating on a dance project when Jennings said they should do something for kids. They considered a TV show, but that was too complicated. What they really wanted was a place where they could go to have fun (and get exercise) with their kids. Susan suggested they meet with Don Sunderland, now the CEO, and a business was born.
The first ExerBlast opened last week in the 6,400-square-foot space that was most recently home to Grimshaw Architects. Blue lines on the floor lead you along the circuit. The two levels are a mix of real-world apparatuses (a jungle-gym-like sphere, a room of big rubber balls, climbing walls that rotate as you ascend) and the virtual (you receive an animated welcome, and some of the other nine zones feature projections that move when you do). “The beauty of it is that the programming can change over time,” explains chief financial officer Tom Currier, who lives in Tribeca. Ultimately, participants will be able to redeem the points they collect for a free birthday party (it should go without saying that there’s a party room), fitness-related products, and even the chance to help create content. During the school day, ExerBlast plans to use the space for parenting classes, cooking classes, and senior fitness.
“The idea was initially for kids 5 to 12,” says Gyllenhaal, “but now we’re thinking 5 on up.” Siblings younger than five are welcome, as long as parents understand that those kids are not likely to get as much from the experience. While parents and caregivers are definitely encouraged to participate, children may also be dropped off.
Everybody gets one free trial blast, and charter memberships are available until September 1. For more on what that entails—and pricing in general—stop by. (Today, what with the heat and the school holiday, ExerBlast will be open from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.) Reservations are accepted.
ExerBlast is at 100 Reade (bet. W. Broadway and Church), 888-898-9797; exerblast.com.
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P.S. My camera couldn’t handle the party room (above); it’s not really lit blue.