By Jeff Vorva
The final arguments were made.
Now, it’s in the hands of the board members and the mayor.
The Village of Orland Park revoked Sky Zone Trampoline Park’s license in December after a Sept. 12 incident involving fighting that spilled into the parking lot and a reported 800-plus people – many of whom were minors – discovered in the facility. The incident brought police from Orland Park, Cook Country and other communities to try to diffuse.
Sky Zone appealed the decision and has remained open. Last Monday night, the board and Mayor Keith Pekau heard arguments from Sky Zone and village attorneys and deliberated in an executive session.
The board will issue and vote on a decision at the March 1 village board meeting.
If the village votes against Sky Zone, it may not be the end of the matter. Throughout the nearly two-hour hearing Monday, Sky Zone attorney Kevin Gerow criticized Village Manager George Koczwara in rendering the decision to revoke the license.
“The village manager has been biased in his ruling to go straight to revocation,” Gerow said, citing that a fine or suspension could have been the punishment rather than taking away the license. “That is something that I, and Sky Zone, have no choice but to pursue should the village board not reverse this order.
“I hope it doesn’t go to further litigation, that’s not what we want. We’re still open to dialogue to doing what we think is reasonable to make sure issues like this don’t happen. We want to be a long-term partner with the village.”
Orland Park prosecuting attorney Donna Morton said there was no bias on Koczwara’s part.
“They claim they were denied a fair and partial hearing because the village manager served as the hearing officer in this case,” she said. “From the outset I want to be clear that the hearing process in this case strictly adhered to the rules of processes found in the Orland Park Village Code.”
She read a rule that allowed the village manager to serve as a hearing officer and deal out punishment that includes revocation. She added that it should not be assumed Koczwara’s interest was against Sky Zone.
“It is a benefit to the village to have a thriving and successful business,” she said. “Good businesses make good neighbors and partners. No one wanted to see a business from Orland Park fail.”
Morton showed video taken from inside the facility, located at 66 Orland Square Drive, that night that showed wall-to-wall people and that Sky Zone management was negligent. She finished off her 40-plus minute argument repeating a part of the Koczwara’s findings.
“The Sky Zone does not understand or appreciate the serious jeopardy they put these young children in and the hazardous conditions it created for the children, the first responders and the general public is inconceivable,” she read and added that an incident with more dire consequences could happen again.
Gerow countered that nothing like that has happened since Sept. 12 and said that no one was injured in the incident and that reports of 842 people crammed in the facility were false.
“There were 842 tickets sold that day,” he said. “There is a misunderstanding. That 842 number didn’t represent how many people were in the Sky Zone at 9:30 [p.m., the time of the incident]. And those tickets were not necessarily for use on that day. Sky Zone opens at 9 in the morning and at that time closed at 11 p.m. They are usually tickets for one or two hours.
“That’s how that number came about. I wanted that to be clear that should not have been given weight in terms of what the actual occupancy was that evening.”
Using video analysis, Sky Zone estimated there were 328 people and Orland Park officials estimated it at 477.
“It was well below 682,” Gerow said of the minimum capacity allowed.
The trampoline park opened in Orland Park in 2016. It is a 30,000 square-foot facility and was the company’s fifth Illinois facility to open at the time.