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OHIO Alum Brings Nation's Largest Indoor Adventure Park Home
Ohio Ag Connection - 08/10/2018

Ohio University alumnus Greg Carlin, BBA '99, MBA '00, is elevating fun and fitness and providing a boost to his hometown with Play:CLE, the nation's largest indoor adventure park.

Carlin opened Play:CLE in December 2017 in Avon, Ohio. The 25,000-square-foot facility features ropes and obstacle courses, climbing walls, ziplines, one of the largest ninja warrior courses in the Midwest, a dining and bar area, and much more.

"We say we are at the intersection of fun and fitness. That is really the heart of what we were trying to mold," Carlin said, noting that Play:CLE patrons are an equal mix of those younger than 18 and those older than 18. "How can we create a sense of activity and adventure that gives you a great workout, is challenging and is ultimately really fun to do."

Carlin's interest in entrepreneurship dates back to his undergraduate years on the Athens Campus. While at OHIO, he joined organizations in the College of Business that allowed him to see the workings of overseas businesses, meet entrepreneurs and business owners, and participate in business pitch competitions.

After graduating, Carlin seized an opportunity to stay in Athens and start a consulting firm dedicated to supporting the growth of Appalachian Ohio businesses with one of his former professors and the current dean of the College of Business, Hugh Sherman. That venture marked the start of Carlin's career in the business world and evolved into what is known today as TechGROWTH Ohio, which provides technology start-up companies in the region with access to business assistance and sources of capital.

"I think anybody who is crazy enough to be an entrepreneur and start their own business always has really grand visions," Carlin said when asked about the vision behind and the success of Play:CLE.

Carlin said his idea for Play:CLE sprouted from a skiing trip in New York. As he sat on a ski lift, a snow-covered outdoor ropes course in the distance caught his attention. He thought the activity would be great indoors, but after careful research Carlin couldn't find anything like it in existence.

The idea stuck with him, transformed over time and gained support from his family, including his wife, Robin, AB '91, MPA '00, and his youngest daughter who proudly holds the title of Chief Play Officer at Play:CLE. After months of planning and convincing banks and insurance companies to do business with a type of business they had never encountered before, Carlin made his dream reality.

"I certainly don't think I could have ever anticipated [Play:CLE] being as popular and successful as it has been today," Carlin said.

He noted that Play:CLE hosts numerous birthday parties, company outings, classes and group events and employs more than 70 individuals, including a fellow Bobcat who serves as its general manager. Play:CLE is also poised to grow beyond Cleveland and close to announcing a second location.

"I don't see any reason why we couldn't be nationwide within the next number of years," Carlin said. "It's what we are working toward."

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