As the summer days get shorter and shorter, so does the wait for the grand opening of Branson’s newest attraction, Fritz’s Adventure, which will be opening this fall. The three-story, 80,000-square-foot building, located next to Dixie Stampede, will include suspended bridges, a rock wall and utility poles for climbing, a full-size water tower, an actual “air-worthy” airplane for exploring, slides, tunnels, urban brick buildings to scale, a challenge course and a massive ropes course.
Quite a bit has changed since the last time I visited the $10 million “family adventure indoor facility,” so I figured it was time for another trip inside the building for a follow up story.
Trey Pelz from Clear Marketing again served as my tour guide, but this time we were also joined by Fritz’s Adventure general contractor and owner representative Matt Engram, as well as Billy Ong, Fritz’s Adventure vice president of business development.
Between the three of them, I got a firm grip on what they still have left to finish, as well as what I could, and equally importantly, what I couldn’t talk about. Being a person who is all about not having an experience spoiled, I will continue to do my best to keep certain aspects under wraps. After all, don’t you just hate it when the latest movie trailer debuts and gives the whole thing away?
Anyway, the biggest difference between this visit, and my one in June, is all the windows have been installed in the front of the building, making it much more difficult to see what’s going on inside simply by driving by.
Even though the airplane and water tower — two of the biggest and coolest things inside — immediately caught my eye, the newly installed ropes course soon took my focus. The brightly colored, multi-level structure consisting of bridges, stairs, ropes, obstacles and a whole lot more, dominates the majority of the front corner of the building as it reaches heights of over 40 feet at the tallest point.
In addition to the unique course, Ong also shared some insight on the cutting edge safety harnesses. According to Ong, once adventurers “hook in” at the bottom of the course, there is no need to “re-hook” whenever they move up to a higher level, unlike other ropes courses.
In fact, there are even places to go around other adventurers who may be a tad bit slower, or have lost a bit of their nerve once they reach the top. In addition to the majority of the ropes course, the climbing poles that look just like telephone poles, a majority of the tree houses and several other secret attractions are also nearly done.
Much like the last time I visited, the airplane and water tower kept calling. The bridge that leads to the inside of the plane was under construction, and my tour guides also teased about a tunnel that will lead from the plane to the top of the water tower. Yes, a mid-air tunnel more than 40 feet off the ground connecting the two attractions.
I don’t know about you all, but that sounds pretty fantastic to me.
Speaking of tunnels, in my last story I mentioned an infrastructure of tunnels running under, over and through the entire building. While I wasn’t permitted to enter the tunnels — not from a lack of trying I assure you — I did get a good grasp on which tunnels would come out where. If this place had been open when I was a kid, I would have had a field day hiding from my parents. Heck, I can’t wait to go and have a field day hiding from my son.
Anyway, even though I had access to pretty much the whole site, it is still almost impossible to tell exactly what is under construction, and what is designed to look like it is under construction. As I looked at the shipping containers that are actually part of the adventure, suitable for climbing from one to the other with special entrances, tunnels and more, I couldn’t help but be reminded of something Engram told me in June.
“It’s like, have you ever wanted to go to a construction site, jump the fence and play around?” he said. “You can do it. It’s putting people in this environment to participate in real life activities. You can climb the utility poles like Johnny’s dad does for a living … all in a safe environment. There is no arcade, or a bunch of carnival games.
“It is adventure play.”
There are a few other “secrets” I was let in on during my visit, but like I said, I won’t spoil them. I will, however, give a hint and say I’m looking forward to humming one of my favorite Tom Petty songs the next time I’m there. (“She’s a good girl, crazy ‘bout Elvis.”)
As we wrapped up our visit, I asked Engram and Ong several questions I was dying to know the answer to, especially why there were different color patterns painted on the outside of the building facing James F. Epps Road. According to Engram, each of the colors represent a different “route” where adventurers can literally climb the outside of the building using something Engram called “via ferrata.”
Of course I nodded my head and pretended to know what he was talking about, even though I didn’t.
According to the internet, “via ferrata” is a steel cable which runs along a climbing route that is periodically fixed to the “rock.” This allows, otherwise dangerous, routes to be undertaken without the usual risks, allowing the relatively inexperienced climbers a way to enjoy some of the more difficult climbs.
How awesome is that?
After getting an answer to that question, I figured it was the perfect time to ask if they had an official date in mind for the grand opening. After giving me one of the best poker faces I’ve seen in quite a while, I changed my tactics and instead asked when Engram thought they might be able to announce the opening date.
He smiled and told me to be sure and pay close attention to the first week of September for an announcement.
Fritz’s Adventure is currently under construction near 76 Country Boulevard and James F. Epps Road, where the Silver Fountain Inn once sat. Once they’re open for business, Fritz’s Adventure will be open rain or shine, 365 days a year.