Brad Roulier flung his arms wide atop a 13-foot-tall hydraulic platform, its base wreathed in fog and multicolored LED lights. Surveying his 50,000-square-foot empire from such a perch is not something the typically soft-spoken, behind-the-scenes Denverite relishes for a photo shoot. But he knows that his lofty plans won’t succeed without a bit of puffed-up promotion.

“Let’s take the tour!” he said after the platform descended and he stepped onto the spongy gray floor. “I see you have the magic socks.”

The grip-soled footwear is required to explore Bounce Empire, the newly opened “inflatable theme park” in Lafayette that Roulier says is the largest of its kind in the world. It’s an upscale, bounce-house paradise for kids and their parents that also offers DJ nights and other 21-and-up nighttime programming. Attendees can crowd around the circular hydraulic stage to see artists perform, or they can rent out a “VIP bounce house” to sit in.

Roulier described it as a cross between Topgolf, trampoline gyms such as Urban Air, and an EDM nightclub — almost like Denver’s Beta, which Roulier formerly owned. It’s also the first of what Bounce House owner and founder James Hay-Arthur hopes will be 20 locations, with the second set to break ground in Centennial in September on a patch of land located 1,000 feet from that city’s Topgolf.

“All I could see when I first walked in here was a 50,000-square-foot warehouse,” Roulier said of the space. “I was like, ‘Where was this place when I needed this back in the day throwing raves? And James said, ‘Then why don’t you throw one here?’ ”

The two-level Bounce Empire can fit 50 inflatable attractions at any one time, some of them boasting lightning-fast, multistory slides that send kids and adults screaming to the floor. Many mimic sports such as volleyball, soccer, basketball and baseball, but some are just good old-fashioned “Wipeout” chaos. A trio of bars sell beer and cocktails, including the upstairs Rubbish Bar that’s off-limits to children.

Parents there can look down upon their kids playing — either from a table or by sitting in one of three massage chairs that face a widescreen TV showing 60 simultaneous camera views from around the complex.

“These are always full,” Roulier said with a laugh as he eyed the high-tech, $30,000-apiece chairs that are programmed to scan and adapt to the user’s body. “It’s so people can make sure they’re being good parents and watching their kids.”

Bounce Empire’s inflatables-booze-and-concerts model has yet to be proven, but on a recent weekday, dozens of parents and children streamed through the doors to sign waivers, plunk down $20, slip on magic socks (an additional $4 per visit), and climb as high as 30 feet on inflatable towers.

The business has been quietly open since June, but Roulier’s calendar of late-night events and concerts is still coming together. In addition to themed nights such as Trance It Up, which runs until 2 a.m. on Saturdays, Roulier is tapping his deep network of contacts to explore high-end shows from huge names.

As director of entertainment and head of expansion at Bounce Empire, Roulier is betting that there are enough Front Range residents willing to pay $500 to $700 (and possibly more) to see platinum-selling headliners up close — or, at least, performing atop Bounce Empire’s hydraulic DJ platform. Possibly while sitting on an inflatable that can be rented by groups of 10 for $1,000.

Bounce Empire’s late-night programming isn’t for diehard music fans, Roulier said, but people looking to see music or comedy or a fashion show in a unique, luxurious environment.

“I didn’t want to do another Beta,” he said. “This is an entertainment facility, not a nightclub. But let’s build it so we can do 500-person, very, very expensive events where you get a Tiësto (the influential Dutch DJ and producer), or a David Guetta or a Marshmello or a Drake. I told (owner Hay-Arthur) that if I want to book a Drake and pay him $100,000, he can’t fight me. He has to trust me to get that money back, because I’m putting my reputation out there.”

Bounce Empire founder Hay-Arthur enticed Roulier to work for him last year under the condition that Hay-Arthur would fund a parallel business of wellness gyms — Roulier’s true passion. That’s even after Roulier raised $12 million for his own startup Denver popcorn company Opopop, with longtime friend and business partner Jonas Tempel, in 2021.

By contrast, Roulier’s MettaDenver Performance Center, as he calls the nascent chain, will offer a 10,000-square-foot spa and recovery center, a 5,000-square-foot space “filled with yoga and meditation domes,” and a 20,000-square-foot athletic center. He’s hoping to secure a site soon, having gone through the process with a downtown property that didn’t pan out.

Hay-Arthur, who lives in a 60,000-square-foot, custom-built estate in Broomfield, last year sold his National Credit Care financial services company for $100 million. He drives a bulletproof black tank USSV Rhino — a detail that’s highlighted in his press biography — and owns one of two playground-style slides that are reportedly the fastest in the world (the other is at Google headquarters in Mountain View, Calif.). And, yes, he has kids.

“Having Bradley join the team was instrumental to ensuring Bounce Empire will provide unforgettable experiences for families and individuals alike,” Hay-Arthur said in a press statement. “With his phenomenal background in growing massively successful entertainment and direct-to-consumer businesses, Bradley will lead the company’s expected rapid growth.”

At his LoDo-based nightclub Beta, which for years was recognized as one the world’s best in Rolling Stone and Billboard, Roulier helped build careers for dozens of DJs and producers who would go on to headline Red Rocks Amphitheatre and other major venues. That includes Denver-based artist Illenium, who in June threw a massive concert at Empower Field at Mile High before tens of thousands of fans.

Prior to that, Roulier co-founded, the Denver-based “iTunes for DJs” service that at its height boasted 125 employees and is now approaching its billionth download. (He and his co-founders sold the company a decade ago for $60 million.) Roulier has also DJ’d hundreds of international events by himself and with his Manufactured Superstars group. Even in the relatively quiet 2000s, Roulier was putting the city on the global dance-music map by throwing raves and festivals, and booking big names (Tiësto, Deadmau5) at South Broadway clubs The Church and Vinyl.

“One of my strengths and weaknesses is that I’m not scared of anything,” he said. “It’s how I ended up getting sued by (Church and Vinyl owner) Regas Christou, because most people bend over for him.”

Christou sued Roulier for anti-competitive practices in 2010 after Roulier left Christou’s club empire to start Beta — a case that Roulier ended up winning. However, Roulier said he was later forced to sue nightclub impresario Valentes Corleons in 2022 after selling Beta to Corleons, who hadn’t fully paid him for the property. (The case, which led to Roulier getting counter-sued by Corleons, was eventually settled and Roulier was returned control of the Beta brand.)

“After I got rid of Beta, there was a void in my life,” Roulier said. “Obviously the Beta community is not really the Bounce Empire community. But maybe it is more now?”

Like many former Beta fans, Roulier has become a middle-aged parent, focused more on his son, playing basketball and practicing yoga than all-night raves. But he isn’t just doing a favor for a multimillionaire by getting behind Bounce Empire. He’s testing the limits of what people will pay for such unusual entertainment, and laying the groundwork for the 21-and-up wellness-gym chain he hopes will open under the same roof as future Bounce Empire locations — but with separate walls, logos and business operations.

Certainly, the luxury elements are up front at Bounce Empire. The smooth, curving bar at Rubbish is made of diamond-cut geodes and points toward an outdoor balcony with views of the Flatirons. Down the walkway is a home theater-style space with comfy chairs and a 128-inch screen that only shows sports. The grab-and-go Bison Bistro restaurant menu departs starkly from the kid-friendly pizza and chicken tenders at most trampoline parks. Such standard fare helps sell private rooms that parents rent for birthday parties, which is another pillar of Bounce Empire’s business.

Culinary director Jorge Pedrianes has instead created a menu with a $25 ahi tuna bowl, $17 Kobe beef sliders, and a Flavor of the Rockies sampler of bison ribs, elk sausage and prickly pear cactus cheesecake, among others.

Staying adaptable in such a massive space is crucial, Roulier said. The attractions can be swapped out easily, and all can be quickly deflated and replaced if a hole appears — or if someone throws up in them.

But is it difficult to tell if someone has been overserved alcohol, given the bouncy, balance-thwarting environment?

“We haven’t gotten there yet,” Roulier said.

Bounce Empire, 1380 S. Public Road, Lafayette. 

Subscribe to our weekly newsletter, In The Know, to get entertainment news sent straight to your inbox.

Source: Read Full Article