PW-JUL19-46-48-Adventure-Play.qxp_Feature 15/07/2019 17:21 Page 48

Special Feature

together, there’s massive scope to deploy a piece into all sorts of business models. “We have seen tremendous growth in adventure

play at large theme parks. I think IP has made this a huge and exciting opportunity,” says Phil. “Theme parks get it; there is still a strong belief that play should be simple. Kids can invent and imagine their own adventures within a play structure, especially when it 's highly themed.”

Chasing the sunshine With so much of the entertainment industry revolving around the seasons, theme parks and FECs can find themselves experiencing highs and lows in visitor numbers depending on the time of year – and the proximity of any national holidays. An indoor FEC might notice less footfall in the

summer, but there are ways to boost seasonal offerings. In part, this can be achieved by expanding the centre’s outdoor activities and maximising the use of available space. In doing so, customers get the most value for their money and time, and so does the business! New additions can have universal appeal, as

demonstrated by Walltopia, a leading manufacturer of climbing walls and active entertainment attractions. The company develops interactive areas with its in-house R&D department, ranging from climbing walls to ropes courses and more. Alternatively, FECs like Los Angeles’ Two Bit Circus host weird and wonderful activities with an experimental edge, like physics games, mad libs and interactive theatre. Activity farms are particularly adept at working

with, not against, the seasons, utilising holidays for themed events during school breaks. Willows Activity Farm in St. Albans hosts a Summer Spectacular from July to September, with a funfair and rides, petting zoos, shows and even a sheep race. Live entertainment and hands-on activities will always appeal to families with younger children, and if visitors enjoyed a special event, they may be more likely to return later in the year. Commenting on this family-focused model, Lilly

Elbra, marketing manager at Timberplay, said: “When executed and planned well, Adventure Play is at the forefront of this movement, giving children the access to experiences they are typically precluded from in the modern world.” Likewise, Natasha Crimp, CEO of Odds Farm

Park, agrees. “We know that our customers want to experience excelling all-weather facilities, including both indoor and outdoor adventure play spaces.”

48 The family aspect of any FECs offering is going

to be pivotal, and York-based Web Adventure Park boasts indoor and outdoor activities, combined with separate Play Zones to incorporate baby and toddler areas, a huge play frame for over-fives and opportunities for all the family to get involved in handmade crafts.

In the zone Whilst location is an important consideration for an adventure play venue, the industry benefits from flexible adaptation to both rural and urban locations. In city centres, venues may struggle to find a space large enough, but catchment area demographics can provide a honed-in target audience, and rural offerings can have the luxury of space and a natural backdrop. Overall, highlighting a business’s core values is key. Phil Wilson highlights the city of Rocklin,

California. “Quarry Park is located in a very urban area. Historically it was a rock quarry that was recently turned into a mixed-use park. There are kids play structures and zip lines to a high ropes course that tell the city's story. It’s a place for families of all ages to enjoy a historical place through adventure.”

The who and the how It’s imperative to know who will be enjoying an adventure play experience - and whether a park has a larger area with myriad structures, or separate areas for different age groups or skill levels, there are creative ways to ensure everyone enjoys their time there. Alexa Kinnison, RCI spokesperson, cites an

example: “Sky Trail and Clip ‘n Climb already welcome participants of all ages and skill levels,

but we are also working to appeal to a larger demographic by integrating more harnessed and unharnessed play products.” It’s largely customer demand that drives these new offerings. Of course, as generational expectation changes

and grows, so too does adventure play. Sidijk spokesperson Nanny Niemarkt emphasises this. “In the playground of Sanjes Fertier in the Netherlands, we have renovated an existing play structure in a gold mine including (fake) TNT explosives, treasures, a climbing wall, gold rush and an interactive search. Doing this, a 20 year old playground is ready for the next generation.” Adventure play can provide a relatively rare

chance for people with specific needs to feel included, and The Bear Grylls Adventure champions this approach. Spokesperson Elena Georgantzi explains, “We’ve got a dedicated adventure planner on site to provide recommendations via a personal phone call, and allow for a free carer ticket to ensure guestswith disabilities have the best possible support to enjoy their day with us.”

On the horizon It’s as exciting as it is difficult to chart the direction adventure play might take in the future. Koezio’s Megane Delaire suspects that the market will remain people oriented. “Adventure play is taking up a big part of the leisure field and society moves faster than ever, so the desire for leisure seems to follow. This means we have to listen to our visitors who, after all, just want to take a break from their everyday lives.” And for Phil Wilson of Extreme Engineers, the

evidence is there every day - connection is key, experience is irreplaceable. “Kids like to engage in real settings. We’ll see some amazing new concepts in the coming year (hint hint). I think theme parks are going to be the next growth with these type of attractions, as long as they meet the capacity demands. We’ve got some cool stuff coming down the pipeline.”

JULY 2019

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