'Devastating blow' as popular Sheffield soft play centre Play Arena closes

A popular soft play centre in Sheffield has closed permanently due to Covid and a ’lack of support for the sector’, the devastated boss has announced.

Wednesday, 4th August 2021, 9:56 am

Sipra Deb, who built The Play Arena from scratch, said in a message: ‘We hope the moments and memories we created with you will be held long in your hearts as they are in ours’.

The site on Little London Road, Heeley, was visited by an estimated one million children after it opened in 2011.

But in October it was teetering on the edge of closure after coronavirus restrictions saw income plunge to 13 per cent of normal.

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The Octopus at The Play Arena - an estimated 1m children visited the venue.

Ms Deb said the 22-strong business, which had £10,000-a-month expenses, received no government or council grants, despite £86m being handed out in Sheffield, and a ‘bounce back’ loan and company reserves were quickly spent. She was forced to use her own, fast-dwindling money.

It went on to survive two further lockdowns and beyond ‘freedom day’ in July, when Covid restrictions were lifted. But it was not to be.

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Ms Deb said: “We are very sorry to announce the closure of The Play Arena permanently. Over the last 10 years we have welcomed you all and hosted many events and parties. We hope the moments and memories we created with you will be held long in your hearts as they are in ours.

Play Arena founder Sipra Deb.

“Unfortunately due to the impossible situation presented by the Covid-19 pandemic as well as the lack of support for the sector and the huge running costs, we have taken the decision that we cannot remain viable.

“This has been a devastating blow to myself and those who have worked so hard to try and find a way. We are extremely sorry if this comes as a disappointment however | cannot see another way forward that would allow us to continue.

“Over the years there have been many memories that will stay in my heart as I move away from my beloved Play Arena. I want to thank each and everyone of you who I had the privilege of meeting and being a part of your life however briefly. Wishing you all a sad goodbye and all the best.”

Sipra Deb at The Play Arena.

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Thank you. Nancy Fielder, editor.