Sheffield soft play centre reopens after six-month lockdown closure- with strict safety measures in place

A Sheffield soft play centre which struggled to stay afloat during lockdown is looking forward to welcoming families back through its doors today.

Saturday, 12th September 2020, 11:42 am

The Big Tops in Dinnington is back up and running this morning (Saturday, September 12) after being forced to shut up shop for six months due to the pandemic.

Owner Les Cooper has been at the helm for 14 years and seen the play centre through drops in business caused by recessions and bad weather- but says coronavirus has posed his biggest challenge yet.

Mr Cooper received funding from the Government at the start of lockdown but later had to take out a loan in order to cover mounting costs.

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Staff have been working hard to get the centre back up and running.

A further blow was dealt this week when Boris Johnson annonced gatherings of more than six people are now banned across the country- meaning Big Tops will not be able to hold parties, which make up a significant chunk of the centre’s revenue.

Mr Cooper said: “It’s been a challenging time since we closed our doors in March to try to get back open again.

“The kids have really missed the excitement of children’s play and the parents have missed the play areas where the kids can burn off their energy while they can sit and relax in a safe environment.

“We are grateful for the grant we received and the furlough for our 28 employees.

"Indoor play centres are not just for play, they are exercise in disguise where the kids really use many muscles in their bodies with the different obstacles they have to use and co-ordinate. They are also a social interaction point where meeting and playing with other children helps with their communication skills."

"We also took out the Government loan facility but this is now all virtually exhausted and we need to get some income coming back into the business.

“Indoor play centres are not just for play- they are exercise in disguise where the kids really use many muscles in their bodies with the different obstacles they have to use and co-ordinate.

“They are also a social interaction point where meeting and playing with other children helps with their communication skills.”

New measures include reducing the centre’s capacity to 40 per cent, an enhanced cleaning regime, socially-distanced tables and sanitising stations.

The centre will operate on a reduced programme initially.

Visitors are also asked to book online or over the phone where possible- though walk-in sessions are possible if customers fill out a form, availability pending.

"To get back open our play centre body BALPPA has been working tirelessly, lobbying government and producing operational guidance for us to work to,” added Mr Cooper.

“This involved producing a risk assessment resulting in reduced capacity to 40 per cent, introducing ventilation into and out of the building according to our capacity, test and trace systems, PPE for staff and instructing customers to wear face coverings, removal of ball pools, social distancing, sanitising stations throughout the centre and much more."

Initially the centre will be operating four two hour sessions from Wednesday to Sunday and will hopefully add more sessions as public confidence increases.

For more information and to book a session visit the Big Tops website: https://thebigtops.co.uk/

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