Start with a foundation of experience, erect some sturdy walls of skill and passion, throw in a couple kids, sprinkle with dreams, and you’ve got – My Jungle Gym!
Isanti resident Scott Boecker will throw open the doors to his dream project on Friday, Sept. 10 – a 6,000-square-foot children’s fitness and play center at 16 Main Street West, in Isanti. The project is a culmination of two years’ planning and draws from all areas of Boecker’s life experience.
Originally from the Twin Cities, he began coming up to Isanti years ago for the BMX track. He has raced since he was nine years old and currently coaches there, including his daughters Meila, 10, and Taya, 13.
“I’ve been in this area as a BMXer and gotten to know some of the people in the community,” Boecker said. “There’s not a whole lot of things for kids to do in this community. I thought, ‘Wow, this would be a great place to open a kids’ fitness center.’”
His interest in fitness began around age 15 with body-building, earning him the titles of Mr. Minnesota in the teenage division and again later as an adult. He owned a fitness club for 15 years and has always had a passion to teach others how to get healthy and stay strong.
“I’m really interested in kids’ fitness,” he said, “because, with all the technology, I want to get kids active and get off the electronics as much as possible and be active and be kids.”
And the final piece Boecker brings is his full-time job: he’s a police officer in the city of Wyoming, with experience in community policing at events like bike rodeos and National Night Out.
“As a police officer, I enjoy working with the kids and the community,” he said. “That’s why I’m building this business – it’s what I like to do.”
EQUIPMENT FOR EVERYONE
The main attraction of My Jungle Gym is a brand new, eight-apparatus obstacle course – think American Ninja Warrior – that weighs about 4,000 pounds and cost $60,000.
“I had to bring it in from a semi,” Boecker said. “Each one of these beams is about 100 pounds, and I had to put them all together like a jigsaw puzzle.”
The course will feature horizontal ladders, rings, cargo net, swing circles and more, with large padded blocks to cushion falling children.
There will be 6-foot and 11-foot warped walls for future ninjas to scale, plus a rock wall for climbing. The toddler room includes a large wooden and plastic play structure and a couple smaller play pieces.
He chose the features based on what his two girls have enjoyed at similar play spaces.
“When we went to a place that had the obstacle course like this, the kids really loved it,” Boecker said. “It was a good workout. So you’re having fun, you’re getting stronger, and you’re getting in better shape.”
BIRTHDAY PARTIES WELCOME
While it’s fitness up front, it’s party in the back where Boecker has a large open space to host birthday parties. Kids will enjoy some time on the obstacle course, then adjourn to the back room for food and music from the DJ set-up complete with disco lights.
“As a parent, it’s great,” Boecker said. “You don’t have to do anything – just pay the money. Kids show up and people take care of it and clean up afterwards, and you don’t have to do anything. Our birthday parties are one of the key things I want to do.”
Information about parties can be found at www.myjunglegymmn.com, where families can even send out electronic invitations.
Boecker is hopeful the room can be used for other activities in the future like parent/child yoga classes or workshops on nutrition.
WORK AND PLAY
What exactly will a kid’s workout look like?
Boecker’s goal is to offer two-hour blocks of activity for groups of up to 15 kids, aged about 6 to 15.
“The first hour will be like fitness class,” he said, with warm-ups, then instruction on going through the obstacle course intermingled with jumping jacks, push-ups or sit-ups, “and the second hour will be open play.”
He’ll also provide certain hours just for open play for all ages, including toddlers.
Costs will be in the range of about $12 per child per day, with discounts of $2 per additional child to a low of $6. And – surprise! – parents are free.
“I want the parents to do stuff with their kids in here,” Boecker said. “I want to promote child/parent togetherness. To be in here, you have to have your parent with you – you can’t just get dropped off.”
To further promote interaction between parents and kids, Boecker is adamant about promoting the gym as a “no cellphone zone.”
“I don’t want kids to be on their cellphones. I don’t even want the parents to be on their phones,” he said. “If you’re on your phone, it’s going to be because you’re taking pictures of your kid. I don’t want you surfing the internet. I want you to be interacting with your kid and having fun with them.”
STARTING SLOW AND RAMPING UP
Even with Boecker’s experience, skill, passions and dreams, it hasn’t been easy to bring My Jungle Gym to its grand opening. He and his brother have done all the remodeling of the building since he bought it in June of 2020 – all while Boecker has worked full-time and been a single parent to his girls.
Plus he’s one of the many business owners who can’t find part-time staff right now, so he’s facing working most shifts at the gym himself.
“I think for the first couple months we’ll be open less hours,” Boecker said. “I will be open like two hours in the morning, two hours in the afternoon, then two hours at night or something to start.”
The best way to find out hours of operation is to check the Facebook page “My Jungle Gym,” where Boecker will post weeks ahead what his hours will be. As he’s able to hire employees, more open hours will be added.
With just days to go till the doors open, Boecker remembers checking out the space when it was a thrift store.
“I came in here three or four times throughout the two years,” he said, “looking around and going home figuring out what I’m going to do and how I’m going to lay it out. It’s been rewarding just taking the building, the vision, and making it happen.”