Market remains for attention-getting inflatables

FORT WORTH, Texas -- Among the hundreds of vendors peddling their wares in the exhibit hall at the Texas High School Coaches Association convention, some displays stand out more than others.

So it is with All Star Inflatables, a Garland company that manufactures and sells those mammoth inflatable tunnels, helmets and mascots that football teams run through while taking the field just before kickoff.

The company sells its products all over the world. Soccer teams in Italy, France and Mexico are clients.

But Texas still accounts for 60 percent of the company’s business, according to Rockwall resident Kristie Oliver, national director of sales for All Star Inflatables.

Oliver said she was a little concerned about the business this year in the face of school budget cuts, but a day and a half into the convention, she reported the sale of five products.

“We really don’t sell to the school districts,’’ Oliver said. “It's more to booster clubs and parents. Part of our strategy is to help them with ideas to help pay the cost. We encourage them, for example, to sell sponsorships each season.’’

Prices begin at $1,500 for an eight-foot tunnel and go to $10,000 for a combination helmet and tunnel. Oliver said the on average a booster club will spend about $6,000.

All Star Inflatables started as a rental company 13 years ago that included bounce houses.

Its first tunnel was sold 12 years ago for Wylie High School and is still in use. Wylie’s most recent purchase is a fearsome-looking skull that Oliver said is one of her favorite designs.

All Star’s inflatables are built to the purchaser’s desire. Construction can take four to six weeks. The finished product requires 45 seconds to inflate and five minutes to deflate.

One of the company’s newest products is called Savage Hill, a sloping 22-foot inflatable that is designed to be used as a training device.

Oliver said the first one was sold to Houston-area power Katy High School in time for offseason drills.

"Watch out for Katy this season,'' she said.