The crew at Kayak Valet has one mission: to get more people out and enjoying the local waterways and scenery via kayaks or paddleboards. Since storing, hauling, unloading, reloading, and potty training their own kayaks can deter people from boating, the team sets up shop to cancel out such deterrents. They take care of nearly every task, bringing all equipment necessary for a leisurely paddle on puddles of all sizes right to the launch site. The crew will pick up and deliver equipment to popular launch sites within Hillsborough, Pinellas, and Manatee Counties. To keep the aquatic adventure accessible, the shop rents only kayaks and standup paddleboards that can be piloted by anyone, experienced or not. Additionally, they give visitors tips on paddling and safety techniques and sell new kayaks, paddleboards, and accessories.
The Hitting Academy's instructors help players of all ages and levels train at the same level as pros. Coaches and retired baseball players have a secret weapon when training their subjects: batting cages built extra large so players can track the pitch and see the distance and trajectory of their hits. At one end of each cage stands an Iron Mike Pitching Machine, which can be set to pitch anywhere between 40 and 90 miles per hour. The nets that separate each cage can be pulled aside to create extra large spaces for a variety hitting or even fielding drills. The entire 12,000-square-foot indoor facility boasts an AstroTurf playing surface that acclimates players to the feeling of cleats on grass.
Every cage supplies the cool breeze of an air conditioner. Cages used for private lessons also contain cameras, which feed video into RightView Pro software suite housed on the facility's computers. The software allows players receive corrective advice from trained instructors who use video analysis of swings, and even has the capability to compare a player's swing to that of modern pros.
Ray Baldorossi, Jr. helped to create Softgolf by accident. As a child, he sent a miniature basketball soaring in his backyard with the help of a golf club. His father, an aerospace design engineer, took note of its trajectory and set about inventing a soft ball with holes that, as described by Tom Jackson of The Tampa Tribune, "plays remarkably like its more familiar cousin." After running the first Softgolf in southern New Jersey until the late 1980s, the family retired the business?until Baldorossi, Jr. re-established it in Tampa, this time with a twist. Instead of illuminating the course with a blend of traditional lights and the winks of fireflies, he lights the Softgolf balls from within thanks to phosphorescent materials. He also dots flags, holes, and tee boxes with solar-powered batteries and LED lights. The result: a whimsical, family-friendly game that whisks the orbs up to a distance of 70 yards along a sprawling fairway?the same number of yards owned by most 18th century robber barons.
The Tampa Bay International Curry Festival now doles out thousands in cash prizes to professional and amateur chefs competing in its curry cook-off, but it started out as a friendly family competition. In 2008, Drs. Sadhana and Ram Ramcharran thought it would be fun to have a curry cook-off at their family reunion. But they were surprised to find out that each of their family members prepared their curries differently and wondered how much more variety there could be in kitchens around the world. Three years later they got the chance to find out when their dream?and not the one about sharks developing legs?came true.
Today thousands of people gather at the festival to taste curries and watch international chefs compete to be the grand curry champion. The family-friendly event also invites guests to listen to live music, play in bounce houses, watch performers, and visit more than 50 vendor booths.
Strapping on a vest, picking up a phaser, and entering the vast Laserstrike arena, players skulk through fog as pulsating music mercifully disguises their footsteps. Within the facility's 3,800 square feet, they strategize, squint, and sweat, darting between obstacles and deciding in a flash whether to seek cover or dip into enemy territory. Phasers boast different firing styles?including, sneakily enough, the ability to change color when on an undercover mission. There are also different game styles, perfect for different team sizes and for those who prefer to play catch with the vests and phasers. After the final shot is fired, players step out to examine the computerized leader boards and enjoy a full bar and food menu. After a moment of calm, they may opt to visit Laserstrike's attached ice rink?or, feeling brave, they might dive right back into another laser battle.
At first, Boing! Jump Center measured only six feet square. It sat on the tabletop of Boing! founder Michael C., who wanted to work out the best possible arrangement of bounceable surfaces before opening. Today, the center’s two trampoline arenas total 12,000 square feet of jumpable surface, where everyone has access to multidimensional springiness.
When the space isn’t being used for open-jump sessions, Boing! can be converted into an arena for trampboarding, a wakeboarding-style sport for trampolines. Or dual courts for an aerial version of dodgeball that adds jumping to the sport’s usual ducking, throwing, and curling up into a ball once you’re out. During breaks between aerial activities, guests can stop by the Boing! arcade, which rewards players with goodies from its prize center. The newly renovated game center also hosts combo deals, including a college night.