A fly on the wall at Hardkore Parkour might see Cirque performers spinning on silks or stunt artists choreographing stage combat or auditions for America’s Got Talent. But the same fly would see homeschool kids catapulting into a foam pit and a tumble track where a 300-pound dude named Lawrence nailed his very first front flip. Given all of the bodies in the air at HKPK, a fly might be better off watching the action from the ceiling.
This month, the gym is celebrating its 1-year anniversary as the nation’s largest facility dedicated to parkour. For those who haven’t seen American Ninja Warrior or Casino Royale, parkour is a discipline of movement that maximizes agility and momentum to overcome obstacles.
“I grew up in a small town on a dairy farm, jumping off of barns and trees and everything else. It’s always been part of me. We didn’t call it parkour back then,” says HKPK owner Jeff Jay, whose expertise in gymnastics and stunts made him a natural at the sport that’s become essential for any respectable action movie. In fact, the HKPK landscape looks a little like a movie set or a video game, with walls covered in whimsical street art and a play area with giant foam mushrooms and a “bat cave.” Salmon ladder to lâcher bars to a Nissen trampoline used in a recent Spider-Man film, the equipment challenges athletes at all levels. Instructors teach everything from parkour basics to aerial stunts to stilt aerobics.
Jay teaches that last one; it makes sense, as he invented the Velocity Motion Stilts used in the class (and at Disney theme parks from Anaheim to Hong Kong). He also works the snack bar and pulls janitorial duty in the midst of building the gym’s brand and running his other company, the Werks Group, which designs for clients in industries from aerospace to clean energy.
His ventures have always been profitable from the jump, until HKPK. Operational costs are huge, but the crux is raising awareness that the gym isn’t just for pros. “So many times I’ve been like, ‘I should fold up shop,’” Jay says of the 20,000-square-foot space and smorgasbord of classes, camps and spontaneous craziness (like constructing a waterslide chute on the padded floor). “There’s always some little thing, some little glimpse … and it makes you go, ‘Okay, I’m gonna try it another month.’ Because there’s something about this place.”
For Jay, the struggle is worth giving the community a positive environment for cutting loose and building muscle and confidence. Whether they learn respect or burn off weight, kids (and adults like Lawrence, who dropped almost 100 pounds in six months on the trampoline and tumble track) are doing more than playing. Marketing director and pro stunt guru Rich Hopkins grew up in the “skate-park era,” when wipeouts were greeted with harsh put-downs. He says HKPK’s atmosphere is the opposite. “It’s all about personal achievement, but they’re all helping each other achieve those goals.”
That goes for trickers, b-boys, acrobats, CrossFitters, boxers—anyone who wants to crank up the body’s capabilities.
“We’re getting more and more mainstream athletes because in parkour you’re training muscles in a different way. So, say you play baseball and you come in here; your agility, your coordination, your skill level just goes through the roof,” Hopkins says.
Skill building is part of Jay’s vision of a homegrown parkour squad that could showcase the talent in Las Vegas and represent HKPK as the brand spreads. For now, he’s focused on finding major sponsors to help fine-tune the original.
“The mission statement is: ‘Inspiring and challenging everyone to overcome life’s obstacles.’ ... But the bigger message that we try and promote is tenacity,” Jay says, adding with a laugh, “Segway jousting is the next thing.”
Hardkore Parkour Open gym and single classes, $15-$25; class packages, $80-$200. 3680 N. 5th St. #130, 637-4575. Monday, 4-10 p.m.; Tuesday-Saturday, 10 a.m.-10 p.m.; Sunday, noon-6 p.m.
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