WINAMAC — A new adventure park is taking shape in Pulaski County.
Its 50-foot climbing tower is up and nearing completion. Hills are being sculpted that people will be able to roll down while inside inflatable orbs. Sandbag bunkers await competitors on what will be one of several laser tag fields.
"The whole thing is for people to get outside and do something," said Bobby Rugg, owner of Rugged Adventures.
The developing 35-acre park is north of Winamac on U.S. 35. Men worked in helmets and harnesses Thursday, Aug. 13, on the climbing tower ordered from KristallTurm, a company based in Germany. It's made up of several ascending platforms connected by narrow beams and capped with a large hexagonal deck. The first KristallTurm tower in the U.S. opened today at SOAR Adventure Tower in Franklin, Tenn.
Alex Klinger of Germany is supervising the tower construction. He's been leading a team of workers hailing from Hungary, Romania and Germany for about a week in Winamac.
They're all passionate climbers, Klinger said, adding they often celebrated long work days by climbing recreationally while in Tennessee on their last job.
"We love to climb," Klinger said. "Sometimes after 12 hours we go to the climbing gym."
Standing on top of the tower at Rugged Adventures provides quite a different view than they're used to, Klinger said.
"Nobody of us has ever been to a place like Winamac," he said. "This is awesome because you're on the tower and looking in every direction — you see nothing ... In every other city we've been to, there's buildings, houses, highways, streets. This is completely different. I've never been to a place on Earth which is like, so less crowded."
Every so often, light clouds of dust would blow by the tower from the other side of the park where dirt was being dumped and shaped for the zorbing hill. The activity requires participants to enter an inflated ball known as a zorb that they can roll around in. Grooves will be cut into the hill complete with curves to serve as channels for the zorbs.
"There might be a straight one just for the speed demons," Rugg said.
She owns two zorbs with harnesses that riders can take down a hill, four that can be rolled around in on flat land and three equipped for water inside for those who desire a splash as they tumble.
Rugg said a lubricating rubber material will be applied to another hill for a summer tubing run. The hills will be made available for sledding during snowy winters, she added.
A zip line will come off the top of the climbing tower over the park's bubble soccer and archery tag fields, which will be sodded soon. Rugg has 20 of the inflatable orbs that cushion players' upper bodies in the contact sport of bubble soccer. She has enough bows and foam-tipped arrows for two simultaneous games of six-on-six archery tag.
Rugged Adventures offered zorbing and bubble soccer earlier this summer at the Pulaski County Fair. Rugg's children, 16-year-old Gavin, 9-year-old Sakora and 6-year-old Louis have been testing the equipment as well.
She smiled as she described the feet and small amount of ankle visible on Louis when he wears a bubble soccer orb.
"He runs all over everywhere and he gets going so fast that he flips himself over and the next thing you know is — all you see is these little feet dangling in the air and he's like, 'I'm stuck! Can you come push me?'"
The three 2-acre laser tag fields will have military, Old West and construction zone themes. Eight structures were recently completed for the Old West field that competitors will be able to hide in, including a mock trading post, general store and jail. Rugg recently got 42 laser guns for the attraction.
This year's rainy summer hampered an originally anticipated opening date in June.
"We're moving right along now that we're not under water," Rugg said. "It was all under water for like two and a half months, this whole place."
She's planning for a grand opening in 2016.
Seeing her vision grow along with the investment necessary to see it through and being unsure about how it will be received has made building Rugged Adventures an adventure in itself, Rugg said.
"It's amazing, it's scary, it's awesome," she said of watching it all come together. "From the comments that I have got from people who are excited about it ... it's like, wow, there really are people who want this type of stuff. It's going to be amazing for so many people."
As the main elements of the park near completion, Rugg continues to ponder future possibilities. She sees the top deck of the climbing tower as a venue for stargazers with telescopes, post-prom events and date-night dinners. She's looking forward to grass being planted so attendees can spread out on blankets to watch musical acts. An ice skating rink would complement the sledding hills during the winters, she added.
"We'll see what I come up with from there," Rugg said.