Austin mom opening city's first American Ninja Warrior gym for kids

AUSTIN (KXAN) -- From rock-climbing to gymnastics, fencing to rowing, children in the Austin area have had their choice of gyms, clubs and teams to join if they want to try out a new sport.

Now you can add being a ninja warrior -- Austin is getting its first American Ninja Warrior-style gym completely catered to kids, thanks to a local mom.

"My kids watch the show, they are 6 and 8 years old and it's the only show we watch as a family," said Jennifer Halla. "We went to Chicago this summer to visit my brother and there's a ninja warrior gym there for kids."

The plan was to visit the gym once, but it quickly turned into four different visits.

"They took a couple classes and it was just really fun and I didn't understand why we didn't have one here, so my husband and I talked a lot about it and we said let's just do it," Halla said.

Halla found a space in north Austin and over the past couple months, she's been ordering all the equipment necessary to outfit it with the proper ninja warrior courses and calling it Austin Ninjas.

"I see kids at the parks when I'm there and they're trying to make courses out of playground equipment, so they already have the interest and passion for doing this sort of thing," said Halla.

The popular obstacle style course trend is attracting thousands of kids nationwide, some who have given up more traditional sports for the strength, agility and mental challenge. According to NBC, American Ninja Warrior draws about 6.8 million viewers overall and has a top-10 ranking for primetime summer shows among kids ages 2-17.

"It's just such a fun way to exercise and not every kid wants to be on a soccer team or a basketball team," Halla said.

Two weeks ago, Halla received a call from another Austinite looking to help.

Damir Okanovic saw her post on Facebook and offered his services. The staff and kids will be trained by Okanovic, one of Austin's actual American Ninja Warriors. He competed on season 9, earlier this year in Las Vegas.

"I decided to build an obstacle from just going to home depot and buying stuff and using my backyard as a course," Okanovic said.

As he prepares to compete in the upcoming season of the show, his focus now is showing kids anything is possible.

"They see it on the show and they say, 'I can do this', come out and try it, and you'll see, you might be the next american ninja warrior," he said.

Austin Ninjas will open in January at 6001 W. Parmer Lane, Ste. 430.

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