American Ninja Warrior Comes To Orange County — And Maybe The LA Olympics
American Ninja Warrior has been a hit show for the past decade, a spinoff of Japanese competition show Sasuke. Elite athletes run, leap, and scale obstacles for a potential million-dollar prize. Now the brand is opening up a permanent home in a Santa Ana mall, and the format is under consideration for the 2028 Olympics in Los Angeles.
The park features a variety of obstacles, including spinning logs, cargo netting, spider walls, and the Warped Wall — around 50 obstacles have been created for different locations, the exact selection tailored to each specific site.
There’s also an inflatable arena, combining ninja skills with the leaping playground seen in a bounce house. It’s split with around 6,000 square feet of the more traditional ninja warrior-style events with aluminum trusses, and around 10,000 square feet for the inflatable space, according to CEO Adrian Griffin.
Not For Hardcore Warriors
The American Ninja Warrior Adventure Park is meant to be a family entertainment center with something for all ages, and they even have options for toddlers and their parents to come enjoy the space together.
The park features five different difficulty levels for its five courses — so it’s all right if you aren’t such an elite athlete yourself. The first course is designed so that just about anybody can complete it.
“It’s not for the top-level athletes, it’s not for the show athletes,” Griffin said. “We want to create an entertaining experience for the whole family — they can come, it’s not too challenging. … If [staff] do see somebody struggling on a particular feature, they will advise them not to go to the next difficulty lane.”
Griffin compared the park to a trampoline gym, but elevated, with everything from show lighting to spectator areas. They’re also adding a free app to let players compete against others at this location and around the world, as well as tracking their progress in repeat visits. It even lets you create a metaverse-esque avatar.
The COVID-19 pandemic delayed the opening of the Santa Ana location, but now Griffin hopes to build outward, with locations in other states and in other parts of Southern California.
“In a way, [the pandemic] created that kind of pent-up frustration, and wanting for people to really go out and enjoy themselves again,” Griffin said. “People just cannot wait to try and get back to normal.”
Ninja Warrior may be elevated on the world stage soon. The show’s original Japanese producers are collaborating with Olympics organizers on potentially using a course in the 2028 Games.
“What we’re finding for us is that we’ll have the perfect breeding ground, the feeder system, for these kids to initially come, enjoy it and have a laugh,” Griffin said. “And you know what? That’s how stars are found.”
The potential Olympic ninja competition is currently being tested. The first official test event for the Olympics was held late last month, and there are more on the way. It would be a change to the modern pentathlon, possibly replacing the horse riding segment. The modern pentathlon includes fencing, freestyle swimming, equestrian show jumping, pistol shooting, and cross-country running.
The proposed change comes following struggles controlling the horses in the 2020 Olympics, as well as one coach striking a horse with her fist. The modern pentathlon was left off of the initial list of sports set to be included in the 2028 Games. Proponents of the sport still have to prove it’s worth including.
“They must demonstrate a significant reduction in cost and complexity and improvements across the areas for safety, accessibility, universality, appeal for youth and general public,” International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach said, according to NBC Sports.
The modern pentathlon’s governing body, the Union Internationale de Pentathlon Moderne (UIPM), put the controversial replacement plans into action with a November 2021 vote. The ninja competition received the most support as a potential replacement, according to the UIPM — they’ve been working with the international governing body of obstacle-based sports and events, World Obstacle.
We’ll be watching to see whether L.A. ends up being a home for Olympic ninjas. The park opened Friday in Santa Ana’s MainPlace Mall, with Ninja Warrior superstar Jessie Graff set to be at the opening.