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TAKING KIDS’ BIZ SERIOUSLY

Why Lauren and Ryan Dukes left the oil patch for a family-friendly opportunity

Working in the Texas oil and gas industry is serious business. 

So why would a couple of young, high-achieving executives walk away in favor of kids’ stuff?

For Lauren and Ryan Dukes, the answer isn’t complicated at all.

“We had been in oil and gas for 10 years and loved our careers but Houston is a grind,” says Lauren. “Then we started a family and realized that we wanted a lifestyle that was more focused on getting to spend time with our children. Seeing our daughter for an hour in the evening is not what we wanted. So, we looked into going out on our own.”

The Dukes had always wanted to relocate to Tennessee at some point to be closer to family in Southeast Missouri. And when an opportunity arose to become Urban Air Adventure Park franchisees, they decided to make the move to Middle Tennessee.

“We heard about the brand, started looking and loved it,” says Lauren. “It’s family-focused and gets kids out from behind a screen. We’re not a workout-obsessed couple but we are active and like to be doing things. Urban Air offers that for a family. Kids can get their wiggles out and mom and dad can sit in the café and use Wi-Fi!

“Besides, Urban Air is tops in its class in terms of levels of attractions. The entire package, from lighting and music to layout and the color palette, is intentional. You walk in and there’s good energy. It exudes fun.”

The Dukes opened their first Urban Air Park in Franklin in 2020 before opening their Murfreesboro location at 1952 Old Fort Parkway last year. Both buildings were gutted and rebuilt from scratch. The level of commitment is significant as the Dukes and their partners have invested $4 million into the facilities.

According to Lauren, it’s worth it.

“It’s a world-class facility,” she says. “I’m biased but it’s impressive to walk in and look around. Not just for the kids but for the moms, too. The sheer level and variety of the attractions sets it apart from a trampoline park.”

As parents of two daughters – Evelyn, 5, and Caroline, 1 - the Dukes pay considerable attention to cleanliness and safety.

“Our goal is to give families a place that’s safe, clean and fun,” says Lauren. “I know that that might sound cheesy but it’s the truth. When we started, we told our staff at the time that Evelyn was 2 years old and she has to be able to roll around on the floor.”

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