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In the media

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Imagine a large field crowded with gigantic, brilliantly colored games. The air vibrates with thumping, high-ener gy music A scoreboard keeps track of which team of co-workers is racking up the most points. After two hours, scores are tallied, awards are given and players discuss what they have learned. It's not your typical company picnic.

It is a scene created and produced by Benicia-based Total Rebound. For about $50 a head, founder and owner John Wilkinson and his staff will create a fun-filled environment where employees learn team-building skills to take back to the office. "People are tired of white wine and canapes as a party," Wilkinson said. "The ages of workers in the Silicon Valley are much younger, 22 to 40, and they want active participation. We recognized this and started developing organized competitions."

What is now a $1.9 million enter prise began with Wilkinson's first experience bungee jumping. At 33, he abandoned his career in the hotel business and created Total Rebound. It was California's first state-approved bungee jumping organization in 1991.

The new form of risky recreation drew a large crowd, so Wilkinson decided to devise a way to entertain them. He bought an Orbotron (a human gyroscope) and built a Velcro wall to cling to after they launched themselves off a mini-trampoline. Today, he and his 150 fuil- and part time staff use the inflatable obstacle course, Gladiator Pedestal Joust, Human Shuffle Board, Velcro Drag Race and more than 70 other games to coordinate corporate picnics. "One of our hottest games right now is surgery," Wilkinson said. That game is similar to the children's one, only thousands of times larger. Two teams of players use gargantuan tweezers to lit huge bones out of a giant inflatable patient.

Total Rebound has nearly doubled in sales every year since it started renting interactive games and hosting corporate picnics, Wilkinson said. In January 1996, Wilkinson opened a Total Rebound office in Oahu, Hawaii, and in November he started the manufacturing company Toy Works in Sacramento. The research and development for new games is done in Benicia and then manufactured in Sacramento.

Competition in interactive game rentals have increased since 1994. It is now a $5 million category and Wilkinson estimated that Total Rebound's market share will dip this year to an all-time low of 70%. He is focusing his product line away from strictly inflatable games to those that combine bungee cords, metals, ropes and other materials. The goal is to keep coming out with new games so his repeat customers do not get bored. "Everything you can do with air and vinyl has been done," Wilkinson said. "It's still great to have a giant 30 foot inflatable slide for a picnic, but it's not new." By November, Total Rebound will release at least eight new games. While other companies may rent out interactive games, Wilkinson said Total Rebound is the only compnny that designs the games, and uses them to improve team work among a company's employees. "[Employees] don't think, 'Oh, they are trying to make us work together better.' It just happens," Wilkinson said.

While Total Rebound will host parties as small as 20 people, Wilkinson boasts of having hosted a 6,000-person picnic at the Moscone Center for Microsoft using 60 interactive games simultaneously. His largest event was last summer, with 11,000 employees from San Jose-based Cisco Systems. "A lot of our games are geared toward breaking down barriers," Wilkinson said.





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