Thursday, 1 September 2011

The Play Arena, Sheffield - Review

Over the summer holidays we went up to Sheffield to visit family, and during one particularly wet day we decided to get online and try and find somewhere nearby to take the kids.  I came across The Play Arena on Day Out With The Kids and was impressed enough by the website to give it a shot. 

Set in a large industrial unit not far from Sheffield City Centre The Play Arena is unlike anything I've seen before, and over the past 9 years I've seen ALOT of indoor playcentres.  It is very new, only opening at the beginning of August, and as a result was not as busy as I expected it to be on a rainy afternoon. 

The arena is set into several sections surrounding a main seating area, cafe and toilet block.  The first thing you see beyond the desk when you come in is the giant rotating Octopus in the toddler area, so this was naturally our first stop.  Grace and Alfie were mesmerised by it (and to be fair, so was I!).  There were lots of other really cool things in this part too, the rocking pirate ship was also a big hit.

Charlie and Chloe bolted straight for the main playframe, which is HUGE and houses a 4 lane ASTRA slide, crawl tubes, spiral slides and spider climb.  There is also a toddler section to the main playframe so smaller ones can feel grown-up, my younger two loved the double yellow slide. 

My boys favourite part of the place was definitely the kart track, coin operated Go-Karts are fabulous for little drivers and were manned at all times by a member of staff to help out with any misjudgements in steering.

Another big hit for the kids was the air canon shooting range, which is housed over the sports area.  The air canons shoot small foam balls into a netting canopy whilst the children on the other side are shielded by a PVC barrier.  It really was fantastic fun and the children thought it was hilarious!

There was also the Comfyland Experience, which I thought was brilliant.  It is an educational area for children for between 1-6 years and is set into 3 zones; Cognitive Corner, Senses Corner and Music Corner.

There are loads of interactive educational toys and the babies especially liked the sit on computers. There was so much for them to do in here and you really felt as though they were doing some constructive rather than just tearing around (which of course has its place too!)

We didn't eat at the venue as we'd eaten beforehand, but the menu wasn't your average "Nuggets and Chips" affair you'd usually expect.....good, nutritious food at a reasonable price, that's what we like!  They sell a massive selection of drinks and cakes - I had a particularly delighful piece of chocolate cake.  All food is made fresh daily on the premises, with locally sourced ingredients, and even the pizzas are made in a real pizza oven. 

The cafe area is also covered by a CCTV systems so you can keep an eye on your little terrors at all times.  The staff we encountered were courtes and helpful, however it was obviously all hands on deck and they could probably do with recruiting in due course as I can see things getting really busy there before too long once the word really spreads. 

There's plenty more there to keep them amused than what i've mentioned here and if you're looking for something to do with the kids in the area you'd be hard pushed to find something they'd enjoy more because it was fantastic.  My only hope for The Play Arena is that everything there remains as it is now, because so much makes noise, rotates, moves or shoots I hope time and wear doesn't take its toll too much.  Only time will tell I guess. 

Prices vary and can be found on the website, however I found them in line with any other playcentre i've been to with the added bonus of this place being far superior to any of them.

Well done The Play Arena - 10 out of 10 from us!


  1. I too was bowled OVER by the facilities at the play arena sheffield when it first opened, we visited a few times with our 3 children. The freshly prepeared foods and sparkling equipment had us dazzled.
    However, over time we have begun to notice one or two cents in the play arena's armour.
    The first shock we got was one day when we took a packed lunch, paying for 3 kids, 2 adults entry fees and food and drink on top was turning a day out to the play arena into a very COSTLY day out.
    We went in as usual, signed their 'fire register' (as requested by the staff on the door) and the kids went off to play.
    By the time we'd paid their entry and had a coffee each we'd racked up a bill of £16.- we'd only just walked in !
    After a good play session the kide were hot and thirsty.
    So...we got out our sandwiches and were chatting away when a very agressive asian lady approached us, vioce raised, finger jabbing in the air ranting at us that we were in BREACH of the CONTRACT we'd signed when we walked in, the one that was lEGALLY BINDING and said we'd agreed to ALL TERMS of the play arena.
    We looked at each other in surprise, we had no idea what she was talking about....
    Yep! you guessed it the 'fire register' !
    What a lousy move by the play arena, tricking people into signing formal agreements in order to force customers to buy their food.
    The woman , who was still snarling at us, and our kids, bluntly informed us that she was the OWNER and that she would call the police if we didn't put our food away immediately.
    Can you imagine how we felt? I wouldn't wish it on any parent. The children were gutted.

    We have since heard similar stories from other local friends with children.

  2. 2nd play arena shock was when we heard about how the OWNER advertised jobs for NVQ qualified child practitioners. It's not an after school club, teh children are not 'played with' or 'entertained ' by staff there.
    The main thing that staff do there is clean , they seem to wonder endlessly about with cloths and spray, not exactly putting their hard earn qualifications to good use is it.
    I know of a case of a single mum who was employed there and although she signed a zero hour contract was promised over 16 hours per week.
    She PROUDLY signed off benefits and started her emplyment , informed the tax office of her new hours of work and they awarded her credits accordingly.
    After a few weeks, she was starting to worry as her rotas weren't avereaging anywhere near the amount of hourse she'd been promised, not only taht but her NVQ was not being put to use at all waitressing and cleaning.
    She asked for a meeting with the OWNER who curtly told her that she'd signed a zero hour contract and that she was basically going to GET WHAT SHE WAS GIVEN.
    The poor woman was devasted and held back the tears as she finished her shift, at the end of her shift the OWNER approached her and beckoned her over. I've not heard much as DISGUSTING as what happened next
    " you've not been 'smiley' enough today , I'm going to have to let you go."
    It seems with this lady it's her way or THE HIGHWAY!
    Her now ex-employee had been left with over payment of tax credits which she had had to use to pay her rent and council tax due to the hours she'd been promised not being provided.

  3. On our last visit to the play arena we were shocked at the STATE of food and drink being provided,it certainly isn't fesh handmade stuff anymore the equipment getting dirty and run down,Thing are broken or just don't work like th etoddlers horsey roundabout, buttons not working and in the baby area some un capped wires sticking out of the floor!
    We vowed not to go there again.
    Til we heard the latest HORRENDOUS act by the OWNER of the Play Arena.
    My friend had a party there for her 5 yera old son, one of his guests was picked up by his mum , who had a 1 year old (her son) with her.
    You won't BELIEVE this but the poor woman was REFUSED entry by staff until she paid entry fee for the baby!!!!!!!
    Who was on the door?
    Yep! youguessed it ...the oWNER herself ACTUALLY took money off a lady for her to step into the building, baby in arm to collect her other son from a party!
    We are henceforth boycotting the Play Arena Sheffield as we REFUSE to fund this horrible woman's pocket any further. She really is in the wrong job.