Jagger Eaton said he dedicates all of his success to KTR and has a lot of it. The 21-year-old made history last year as the first American skateboarder to win an Olympic medal with his bronze medal in the men’s street final at the Tokyo Olympics. He followed this year with his first X Games gold medal, 10 years after being the youngest X Games competitor.
Eaton was just 11 when he fell into the 80ft MegaRamp at the X Games, but had already been skateboarding for seven years after his father, Geoff Eaton, built a ramp inside the room gymnastics he ran in Mesa, Arizona. It was Jagger Eaton and his brother, Jett’s interest in skateboarding that spurred the development of what would become KTR, an indoor action sports center with now four franchises and counting.
“It was a dream childhood,” Eaton said of learning to skateboard at KTR, short for Kids That Rip. “It’s that safe environment where you can skate indoors for 12 hours,” something unique and necessary in Arizona, where temperatures can reach 120 degrees. It was at KTR that Eaton said he learned to train like an athlete and elevate his skating beyond the level of recreational activities.
“I consider myself an athlete. I live like an athlete, I train like an athlete, I eat like an athlete,” he said. “Right now I’m on my way to a two hour swim.”
Although not intended to be an Olympic training ground for skateboarders, Geoff Eaton designed KTR to bring some structure and real training to the sport. Son of world champion trampoline gymnast Mark “Stormy” Eaton, Geoff Eaton, an elite gymnast in his own right, took over Desert Devils Gymnastics in Mesa after his father’s death in 1995.
“Knowing elite gymnastics myself…I had a really good understanding of developing a program and teaching tricks safely at a very young age,” Eaton said. What started with a few ramps inside the Desert Devils gymnasium eventually became KTR, with the first freestanding center opening in Mesa in 2004.
“It’s turned into a full-fledged school,” Eaton said, with kids skating six hours a day. It added a parkour-style program with obstacle courses, slacklines and more, as well as inflatable floors, trampolines and sports fields. In 2014, “I felt we had mastered how KTR could operate as a franchise,” he said. Enter Ron Sciarro, Co-Founder of Aqua-Tots Swim Schools.
“I’ve known Geoff forever. Thirty years ago we went to high school together,” said Sciarro, who along with Paul Preston started Aqua-Tots in Phoenix and expanded the swim school franchise to more than 120 locations. “The first Aqua-Tots pool was actually in Geoff’s gymnasium.”
Sciarro was intrigued by the KTR concept which, like Aqua-Tots, helped children develop skills and stay active while having fun. Now managing partner and spearheading franchise development, Sciarro helped refine the KTR model that combines skateboarding, parkour, scooter, tumbling and trampoline lessons with options for group events and rentals. parties, and subscriptions.
Three franchises in Arizona are open, in Mesa, Chandler and Scottdale, with an upcoming Phoenix center, plus 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 the rhythm.
Other children’s entertainment franchises such as Sky Zone and Urban Air Adventure Park each have over a hundred locations, but Eaton views these concepts more as indoor playgrounds for children. “People try to box us into a trampoline park,” he said. Yes, “it’s that center that looks like Disneyland” and play is important, but so is skill progression.
“Our team members are the elite of the elite and we know how to advance skill development,” he said. “Everything from a drop-in to a 540 on a 12-foot ramp. Our goal with KTR is to provide the best coaching and education.