Jagger Eaton said he dedicates all of his success to KTR and gets a lot out of it. The 21-year-old made history as the first U.S. skateboarder to win an Olympic medal with a bronze medal in the men’s street final at the Tokyo Olympics last year. He followed up with his first X Games gold medal, 10 years after becoming the youngest ever X Games competitor.
Eaton was just 11 years old when he crashed the 80-meter MegaRamp at the X Games, but his father, Geoff Eaton, had been skateboarding for seven years after he built a ramp inside the gym where he ran in Mesa, Arizona. Jagger Eaton’s and his brother Jett’s interest in skateboarding spurred the development of what would become KTR, now an indoor action sports center with four franchise locations and counting.
“It was a dream childhood,” said Eaton, who learned how to skateboard on KTR, short for Kids That Rip. “This safe environment where you can skate indoors for 12 hours” is something unique and necessary in Arizona, where temperatures can reach 120 degrees. Eaton said he learned to train like an athlete at KTR and elevate skating beyond the level of a recreational activity.
“I see myself as an athlete. I live like an athlete, I train like an athlete, I eat like an athlete.” “I’m going for a two-hour swim right now.”
Despite not being an Olympic training ground for skateboarders, Geoff Eaton designed the KTR to bring some structure and real coaching to the sport. The son of world champion trampoline gymnast Mark “Stormy” Eaton, an elite gymnast in his own right, Geoff Eaton took over Desert Devils Gymnastics in Mesa after his father passed away in 1995.
“Knowing elite gymnastics myself… I had a really good understanding of developing a curriculum at a very young age and teaching people numbers safely,” Eaton said. What started with a few ramps in the Desert Devils gym eventually became KTR with the opening of the first independent center in Mesa in 2004.
“It turned into a full-fledged school,” said Eaton, where the kids skated six hours a day. It added a track-style program that includes tumbling air floors, trampolines, and sports fields, along with obstacle courses, slack lines, and more. By 2014, “I felt like we had mastered how KTR could work as a franchise,” he said. Enter Ron Sciarro, co-founder of Aqua-Tots Swim Schools.
“I’ve known Geoff forever. We went to high school together thirty years ago,” said Sciarro, who started Aqua-Tots with Paul Preston in Phoenix and has expanded the swim school series to more than 120 places. “The first Aqua-Tots pool was actually at Geoff’s gym.”
Sciarro was impressed by the KTR concept, which like Aqua-Tots helps kids develop skills and stay active while having fun. Now a managing partner and leading franchise development, Sciarro helped refine the KTR model, which combines skateboarding, parkour, scooter, rolling and trampoline classes with group activities, party rentals and membership options.
Three Arizona franchise locations are open in Mesa, Chandler, and Scottdale, and there is a Phoenix headquarters nearby and one in Midvale, Utah. It costs about $3 million to build one of the 40,000-square-foot facilities, Sciarro said, “and we’re really sensitive about not growing too fast. Opening one or two a year is tempo.”
Other children’s entertainment series such as Sky Zone and Urban Air Adventure Park each have more than a hundred locations, but Eaton sees these concepts more as indoor playgrounds for children. “People are trying to put us in the box of a trampoline park,” he said. Yes, “This is Disneyland-looking hub” and gameplay is important, but so is skill progression.
“The people on our team are the elite of the elite, and we know how skill development will go,” he said. “Everything from falling into a 540 on a 12-foot ramp. Our goal with KTR is to provide the best coaching and training.”