This story appears in the May 20, 2019, issue of Sports Illustrated. For more great storytelling and in-depth analysis, subscribe to the magazine—and get up to 94% off the cover price. Click here for more.
In the spring of 2012, three-time Super Bowl champ Ty Law—three years removed from his All-Pro career at cornerback—needed someone to build a deck for his Lincoln, R.I., home. So he cold-called Rob Arnold, a local contractor whose flier he’d received in the mail. A few days later Arnold showed up with his crew and got to work.
Arnold, about a decade younger than the 45-year-old Law, used to visit Patriots training camp in the early 2000s and would watch Law practice. He never imagined that one day the Hall of Famer would be bringing beers out to him and his workers. But over the course of the summer-long project the two became friends, and one day, Arnold told Law about a trampoline park he and his wife had recently visited in Orlando. Law didn’t think much of it, but his nine-year-old son, who happened to be listening, couldn’t get it out of his mind. For days he bugged his dad to take him to a trampoline park until Law finally gave in.
“It was too crowded, I didn’t like it. It smelled like feet,” he says. “The kids enjoyed it, but there was nothing for parents to do... Where’s the food? I just saw so much of what it could’ve been. But kids were coming in by the busloads. So [then] a light went on. I started doing the math, counting heads, multiplying it by how much I paid. I was like, Hey, there might be something to this.”
As the name suggests, trampoline parks are giant gyms where kids (and daring adults) can literally bounce off the walls. After traveling around the country to research the parks, Law decided he could build a better version. So he called up Arnold.
“Rob, you interested in doing that trampoline park?” Law asked.
In 2012, Law cofounded the Launch franchise and appointed Arnold as CEO. Launch now operates 28 parks in 13 states (each complete with food, drinks and even activities for parents), employs more than 1,000 people and is actively expanding; former Eagles wide receiver Jason Avant owns three of its top-performing franchises. Launch has also started manufacturing some products themselves, figuring that vertical integration would cut down on wait time from outside vendors.
“I was always going to go into business, going to do something on my own when I was done [with football],” Law says, “Getting cut, all of that other stuff that happens in the game? I want to do all the hiring and firing myself.”
When it comes to life after football, Law cautions that ex-players who aren’t completely invested in their business ventures would be better off putting their money down on blackjack in Vegas. But for those willing to do what it takes, Law says the rewards are great. There will be ups and downs, of course. But in his business, that’s the whole point.
Question or comment? Email us at email@example.com.