Filled with whippersnappers soaring down slides and giggling as they hop on giant trampolines, Superior Play Systems' sprawling showrooms seem more like lively amusement parks than retail stores. As youngsters explore the professionally assembled play sets and basketball courts, staffers attend the parents, answering inquiries and guiding them through the store's extensive selection of safety-tested trampolines, and sports and recreation equipment. The store is home to a sweeping variety of imaginative play sets, made from durable materials like certified California redwood and cedar.
The The Dive Shop's instructors, drawing from Scuba Schools International's programs, teach water-safety skills to fledgling divers and swimmers of all ages. Classes and activities range from the Scuba Rangers club?where kids aged 8?12 learn to snorkel and scuba dive from the safety of a pool?to open-water dives, swimming lessons, and more advanced stress-and-rescue dive sessions, during which instructors turn dog paddlers into almost-mermaids, minus the pet octopuses.
Targets strung up in 12 comfortably ventilated and climate-controlled lanes await approaching bullets as they fly from firearms held 25 yards away. Adjacent to the range, a private, 16-seat room houses NRA- and state-certified instructors as they walk novice and advanced trigger fingers alike through the safety and skills necessary to wield a pistol. In addition to supplying customers with firearm-operating knowledge, the expert gunslingers equip marksmen with a wealth of rifles and pistols from brand names such as Colt and Sig Sauer. Holsters, magazines, and cleaning supplies—such as a gun that shoots all the dirt off your other gun—round out the shop's extensive stock, which includes more than 27,000 products in its online store.
Going from managing ostriches to running a baseball business may seem like a strange jump, but it's just another day in the office for Better Baseball founder Glen Robinson III. In the 1980s, he began raising and selling ostriches and emus as food and as companions for people allergic to pet rocks. A warm spring morning brought an impromptu visit for a customer who was less interested in the massive birds, and more focused on the netting that separated the animals' pens. Soon, Glen was spending more time crafting batting cages than selling his livestock, inspiring him to open what would eventually become Better Baseball.
Today, this bird-free business furnishes players of America's favorite pastime with the gear they need to play Little League, softball, or even college-level games. After taking practice swings inside one of Glen's onsite cages, players can pick up the gloves, glove pads, and eye protection needed to help them catch any pop flies or poorly aimed Cracker Jack from the stands.
In Lithia Springs, there's a tiny clapboard building called the Church of Mighty Pain. Its name is a big hint that it's not a traditional worship center. Passers-by seek refuge not from the world's ills but from an onslaught of paintballs. Their fully stocked pro shop located on site, one of five fields that also feature spaces to play with airball and spool markers. Teams battle each other in fun skirmishes or competitive tournaments, including playing capture the flag just like the United States and Great Britain did before things got out of hand in 1812. Players can rent a Tippmann 98 marker from Classic Paintball or buy one from the pro shop, which makes future games less expensive and future house-painting sessions more fun.
At Play It Again Sports, knowledgeable equipment masters outfit athletes of all sports with new and used gear from major-league brands such as Nike, Callaway Golf, and Adidas. An ever-rotating inventory keeps lockers stocked with spare balls, dressers filled with run-ready shorts, and secret laboratories populated with gleaming treadmills. Proud recipients of the Gold Standard Store award, amiable staffers stand ready to answer questions or assist with fittings, ensuring that each athlete leaves with the appropriate helmet, bat, or free-weight set. The shop also doles out cash or credit for trade-in gear, completing the ethereal circle of sports.