By Mary Ann Bourbeau |
EATONTOWN – There’s a new party place in town and it’s not for the weak or the wimpy.
Knockerball & More opened inside Monmouth Mall, in the downstairs space that formerly housed Burlington Coat Factory. The main attraction is Knockerball, in which players strap themselves inside giant inflatable spheres that cover them from their knees to above their head. Their legs are free so they can run, roll, flip, jump and bump into other players during games of bubble soccer, relay races or last man standing.
“I saw a video on YouTube and I really just wanted to try it myself, but I couldn’t find anyplace in the area that offered anything like it,” said Mike Cannizzaro of Holmdel, who started the business with his father John.
The two viewed it as a potential opportunity and purchased 32 Knockerballs; each contain two handles inside and straps similar to a backpack.
“It’s kind of like being wrapped in Bubble Wrap,” he said.
They come in three sizes – large for adults and teens, medium for pre-teens and a new toddler size.
“We’ve had kids as young as 2 ½- year-olds get in the ball and seniors as old as 70,” said Cannizzaro. “It’s nonstop laughs from beginning to end whether you’re a player or a spectator. I like to describe it as human bumper cars.”
On a recent evening, a group of about 15 people from North Jersey reserved space for a 69th birthday celebration for Luis Durango, who loved the idea of bubble soccer since he is a big soccer fan.
“It was the bomb,” he said.
His friends and family enjoyed it as well.
“We had a great time,” said Hector Zuleta. “It brought us back to our youth.”
The Cannizzaros started out with a mobile Knockerball business, renting the balls for house parties and school functions. In February, they leased an 18,000-square-foot space in Monmouth Mall. Their Knockerballs have been featured on “The Today Show,” “Good Day New York” and “Fox & Friends,” and Cannizzaro has even demonstrated Knocker Hockey on the ice during intermission of several New Jersey Devils games.
“Knockerball New Jersey was the fifth Knockerball affiliate in the country when we started in 2015,” he said. “There are more than 300 now in every state and growing. People love it because it’s so different than what’s already out there.”
In addition to Knockerball, the facility offers many other supersize games that will keep people laughing while offering a great workout. In Foot Darts, players kick fuzzy soccer balls at a giant Velcro dartboard. Foot Pool is a giant game of billiards, but instead of using a cue, players use their feet to pocket the balls.
Human Foosball is just like it sounds – a group of players are inside a giant court and must hold onto a pipe in front of them that only allows movement from left to right, just like a real foosball table.
“It’s one of the most popular games we offer.” said Cannizzaro.
There are also inflatable ponies for Pony Hop Races and a life-size Hungry Hungry Humans, a takeoff on the popular children’s game Hungry Hungry Hippos, in which players lay on wheeled platforms while their teammates slide them back and forth, trying to scoop up as many balls as they can before the timer ends.
“I saw it on Jimmy Fallon and I thought it was hysterical,” Cannizzaro said. “I showed it to my dad and he designed and built our own version. He used to be a building contractor so he built most of our games.”
The games can be exhausting so Cannizzaro has several comfortable living room areas set up throughout the facility with leather couches, recliners and coffee tables. Guests can relax with a game of giant Jenga, Connect-4, checkers or a huge deck of UNO cards. There is also a bocce ball court that doubles as a corn hole area, a six-player air hockey table and a Connect-4 basketball game that they also built themselves.
“This is a great place for parents to drop their kids off at a birthday party and go shopping,” Cannizzaro said. “It’s also been very popular for corporate team-building events and company functions.”
Coming soon is a glow-in-the-dark area that offers Nerf Dart Wars and Laser Tag. Just upstairs from Knockerball, across from the food court, the father and son team will be opening Golf 365, a professional golf simulator in which players hit the ball at a screen that projects images of real golf courses.
The mall’s food court can provide pizza or other items for parties, and Cannizzaro is hoping to eventually make Knockerball a BYOB establishment. Reservations are recommended for parties of eight or more. Those who want to give knockerball a test drive can purchase five minutes for $5 or $8 for 10 minutes. Prices vary for different play packages and all participants must sign a waiver.
“Our motto is We Sell Fun!” said John Cannizzaro, and so far for those who have stumbled upon Knockerball & More, that looks like exactly what they’re delivering.
Arts and entertainment writer Mary Ann Bourbeau can be reached at email@example.com.
This article was first published in the Oct. 26-Nov. 2, 2017 print edition of the Two River Times.
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