Gillingham’s largest charity has opened Space Inflaters, Dorset’s new inflatable play centre in the old Legends Building.
The not-for-profit team behind Riversmeet already run the town’s lesiure facilities, so when Alan Waistell proposed a new inflatable play as a much-needed facility that could re-use an empty building itseemed like a perfect project.
The next step was actually getting the building …
‘We can’t thank Dextra enough’ said Alan ‘As one of the major stakeholders, the Dextra team came and had a look at what was the empty Legends club – he’d never been inside. He looked around and said “you want this?!” It was in a sorry state inside, having been a nightclub for a long time and then empty for a few years. He said “Dextra will support you, you’ve got it – but you do the work!”
The team knuckled down, filling a total of 19 skips before the new flooring could be applied.
‘I’ve been a project manager for 30 years, and this is by far the toughest I’ve ever worked on’ said Alan. ‘The sheer amount of manual work involved in getting the building ready. The cost of materials and labour steadily increased by circa 50 per cent over the 16 months. We managed to only go 10 per cent over budget, though. The only thing that didn’t change price was the £80,000 inflatable itself. Just waiting for it to arrive from China was stressful, with no idea of where the ship was, or if the inlfatable was even on it.’
Not just for kids
On 23rd July, Space Inflaters finally opened its doors. Unusually for a soft play, the fun isn’t limited to those under 12.
A group of ladies from the Super Seniors Sessions at Riversmeet were the first to try out the enormous new inflatable – and they had a blast as they rediscovered their youth. Parents are encouraged to play with their kids; soft play no longer means sitting on uncomfortable chairs drinking very bad coffee for hours while the kids have the fun: ‘Actually our coffee’s amazing – locally roasted, properly brewed. I insisted on it!’ said Alan.
The only rule currently is that no unaccompanied adults are allowed – you really must bring a child with you!
Space Inflaters is now open seven days a week, 9.30am to 6.30pm. Sessions are 90 minutes long (extendable during quiet periods), and can be booked via the website (walk ins are welcome, but numbers are limited so at busy times you may have to wait). Pricing starts at £5 per child off peak (£3.50 for under threes, who have their own play area), and £1 per adult.
The cafe serves freshly prepared pizzas, butcher’s burgers and sausages, jacket potatoes and sandwiches all using locally-sourced produce where possible.
Alan had a final comment urging people to come ‘Space Inflaters provides a brilliant activity for the whole family, of course, but also by using it you are supporting a genuine local community charity – we purely work to meet the needs of the local area, and to ensure that excellent leisure facilities remain available to all.’