Recess for Adults

Kari Nelson's twenties still have a couple of years to run, and she has already started a number of different careers. She's worked in marketing and run business seminars, she's a licensed massage therapist and a certified addiction counselor.

But a couple of years ago, Nelson, who found corporate life sorely lacking in social and wellness opportunities, became consumed An idea that she thinks will benefit all those businesspeople she left behind.

Nelson is the founder of Recess™ Active Entertainment (www.yourrecess.com), which has so far focused on bringing what she calls "lifestyle improvement" to business parks in and around Boulder, Colo., where she lives. Calling on a variety of businesses at midday, Nelson's crew brings workers a light lunch and then runs team-building games and exercises, using everything from brain teasers and hula hoops to schoolyard favorites such as dodgeball, capture the flag and kickball. They set up obstacle courses, bring in African-drum teachers and give lessons in dance, yoga and tai chi. They've even run a holiday program in which workers made Christmas tree ornaments for their children. "You know-the way kids at school do for their parents," Nelson says. "It was really cute."

The object is to give corporate employees an outlet to "mentally detoxify and physically relieve stress," in Nelson's words. "We're trying to recreate a safe, supportive environment that allows them to tap back into their inner child, or whatever you want to call it, instead of feeling that they have to repress it and dive into their work and bury themselves there," she says. "I think we're addressing a lot of different levels for people."

Nelson first got the idea when she was working in project management in one of Boulder's business parks, "working around really young people who were daily getting heavier and heavier because they were sitting around," she says.

She began leading her project team on lunchtime in-line skating jaunts, and discovered that projects got done more efficiently and individual team members could take on bigger workloads. She quit her job, started working on a business plan and began the arduous task of raising money.

What's made her job most difficult is the business plan's centerpiece-a permanent, gamebased, active entertainment facility that has a tentative opening date of March 2002. The center, which boasts conference rooms, spaces for dance and arts and crafts, a climbing wall and a gymnasium for dodgeball, floor hockey and obstacle courses, is planned as a leased portion of a 90,000-square-foot health club now under construction in a Boulder-area business park. The health club is partially supporting Recess on a trial basis, with space allocated based on Nelson's ability to sell a certain number of memberships in advance.

Once completed, the planned 13,000-square-foot Recess facility would be the first of its kind for adults in the United States. "It's a high-risk thing, not to mention that I'm a 27-year-old female, and that seems to add all the more risk," Nelson says. "Women have broken into all sorts of businesses; it's no big deal anymore. But when it comes to raising money? Put it this way: Investors I meet with are interested and excited, but very skeptical at the same time."

Recess's concept has also met with some skepticism from potential users-at least, until they rediscover dodgeball. (Players use soft Nerf™ balls and are encouraged to curb their bullying instincts.) "We're dealing with adults, and some of them may still have issues with recess," says Nelson. "It evokes different emotions for a lot of people. There are plenty of people who had terrible times in recess, who had no friends to play with. For a lot of the bullies, this is a chance for repentance." Nelson laughs.

"It's amazing the stories I get from people," she says. "A lot of them are tapping into something that they've neglected for a lot of years. For the most part, it's nostalgic in a good way, and they're able to have a good time. Adults can be competitive, but they also have a conscience."