Get in touch with inner gladiator at X-Treme Challenge

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Joe Higgins succeeds in the “Breakthrough” exercise by dropping the ball in the basket.

At Zach Plagenza’s gym, pushing, shoving and hitting are absolutely encouraged.

He opened X-Treme Challenge Gladiator Fusion Arena in Colorado Springs eight months ago and kids and adults have been smacking each other around ever since.

X-Treme Challenge is a 6,500-square-foot gym inside Mr. Biggs Family Fun Center, 5825 Mark Dabling Blvd., and features more than 250 activities where participants whack each other with jousting sticks, hang from harnesses and act as human cannonballs, and try to knock each other off 30-inch towers with giant rubber balls. The gym is open for adult and youth parties and corporate team-building events and is available by the hour for up to three hours.

“We are a little bit Gladiator, a little bit of Fear Factor and a little bit of Wipeout all rolled into one,” said Plagenza, who owns the “We are an RSVP company, which means you have to call and reserve a time — we will throw a party for you at 2 o’clock in the morning.”

Plagenza rents the space from Mr. Biggs, but the business is separate and part of a four-gym Colorado franchise headquartered in Denver and owned by Kyler Storm, an American Gladiator champion and long time physical fitness enthusiast.

Storm invented some of X-Treme’s activities, including a “hover board,” a skateboard suspended from two cables on which participants try to balance and an aerial bicycle that allows riders to do tricks like 360s and tail whips.

Plagenza said some of the tricks were invented in his backyard when he was a kid. Many of those tricks and stunts are patent-pending today.

“(Storm) spent the summers with us . . . he was doing flips and crazy acrobatic stuff all the time,” Plagenza said. “He invented the Hover board when he was 7-years-old.”

The concept of a gladiator-style gym was dreamed up by Storm, who starred in the television show American Gladiator sin 1995, Plagenza said. He opened the first X-Treme Challenge in California in 1995 and then moved the business to Colorado in 1999. In recent years, he has sold three franchises to gym owners in Thornton, Fort Collins and now in Colorado Springs.

This year, he opened a new 30,000-square-foot X-Treme Challenge gym in the Inverness Tech Center near Centennial, Colo. A spokeswoman for the company said there are no immediate plans to sell more franchises in or outside of Colorado.

The Colorado Springs gym gets a lot of traffic because of its location inside Mr. Biggs, Plagenza said. About 70 percent of the clients are children and the number of event bookings has gone from one per weekend to 15 parties per weekend. A one-hour party for 12, for example, costs $168, or $14 per person.

This summer, X-Treme Challenge will offer confidence-building classes for youth, Plagenza said. All participants sign a waiver; children must have an adult or guardian sign for them. All of the helmets and gloves are provided.

“Parents are in love with us because their kids are getting a work out,” Plagenza said. “You don’t have to buy any equipment — you just bring a good attitude and a good set of gym clothes.”

Lately, X-Treme Challenge is booking more corporate team building parties and seeing a lot of military squadrons come in to blow off steam.

“Some local jewelers came in — they were managers — they figured out that this is a place where you can really let loose and be a kid again,” Plagenza said.

It’s that way for him too. Plagenza left a California engineering firm to open the X-Treme Challenge gym. And, he is more than happy to give a demonstration on the aerial bicycle, or any other equipment, to anyone who asks.

“Some of the stuff you just jump into head first,” he said.

Plagenza describes the business as a physical fitness and physics company. He straps kids and adults into a harness and gets them on a bicycle doing flips 20 feet in the air.

“I want to challenge you physically, mentally — the momentum, gravity and inertia are going to be working against you in the arena, so is your buddy,” Plagenza said.

A chance to throw giant rubber balls at co-workers and relieve a little stress were reasons why the 230th Financial Management Company on Fort Carson Army Installation recently booked an hour at X-Treme Challenge, said Staff Sgt. Nichole White, squadron leader. Some members of the squadron will be deploying soon, she said, and they wanted to get together for some team building.

“We are doing this for unit cohesion,” she said. “It gives the soldiers something else to do besides the daily work and have a little fun.”

Plagenza said he hopes the gym creates a “wow factor” and gets people out of their element. Once inside the gym, folks can play as hard as they want.

No matter what, he said, people are going to get hit.