It's hard to believe a city like Exeter has been without a large indoor soft play area for this long but, finally, the wait is over.
The doors of new play facility Bear Feet opened just in time for half-term and since then it has packed with hordes of excited children eager to test out its fun play equipment.
Parents have been able to breathe a sigh of relief too that at long last there is somewhere to escape the rain and allow their children to let off some steam.
Marsh Barton-based Bear Feet is located in Ashton Road in, behind Eden Vauxhall, and offers 10,000 sqft of indoor fun. Many parents will already be familiar with Bear Feet because there is already one in Newton Abbot.
In comparison, the Exeter play centre is 25 per cent bigger and its owners, Malcolm and Tina Collett, have enjoyed filling the extra space with lots more fun for children as well as making it a comfortable space for parents and carers.
Malcolm, from Shaldon, said: “Bear Feet was opened in Newton Abbot seven years ago, and we have owned it for the last two.
“We felt the time was right to provide a similar facility in Exeter, especially as there was a gap in the market for one. Nothing compares to it in size in close range.
“Getting planning permission for it was relatively straight forward. I know several people who have tried to get permission for one in Exeter and have always been turned down. But we had a lot of support and the location is perfect because it’s accessible to all and is on an easy public transport route.”
The manager of Bear Feet is Malcolm and Tina’s son Anthony and he has already had some testing times to contend with. The opening date was delayed by a week because of storm damage, but it still managed to open in time for the school holidays.
Anthony recalled: “The roof sheets came off in the storm so they had to be repaired before we could open.
“We started planning the play centre about a year ago and then building work began at the end of August. We’ve had a massive amount of work to do because it used to me a lighting showroom that was divided into smaller display rooms.
“The biggest problem was preparing the space because we had to knock the display rooms down to open the building right up and bring it back to a bare shell.
“It’s had its stressful moments like any project of this size, but we’re really pleased to have opened the doors and welcome the public. We’re very pleased with the way it’s turned out. We have an excellent team of staff and we’re all looking forward to meeting everyone who comes through the doors to enjoy our facility.”
Bear Feet is aimed at children aged 0 to 12, and is divided into three areas to cater for babies, toddlers and older children.
The play equipment includes a ball volcano which shoots balls up and then fall down like a volcano; ball boggler which uses jets of air to suspend balls in mid air; slides, bridges, balance beams, climbing walls, and dark and lit up crawl throughs. There is also plans to open a sensory room in the near future.
Among the first children to try out the play facility was three-year-old Charlie Merritt, from Exeter, who simply said: “I love it!”
Bear Feet also has a healthy eating restaurant with a very reasonably priced menu of both children and adults meals, along with the usual drinks and tempting fresh cakes to choose from.
There is also a seating area with comfortable chairs, free wifi and limited free parking.
Bear Feet is open seven days a week from 9am to 6pm, Monday to Saturday, and 10am to 4pm, Sunday.
Entry is £3.50 per child Monday to Friday, from 9am to 3pm, during term-time. After school entry is £4.50, from 3pm to 6pm, and includes a meal. Entry during half term is £4.95. Under ones go free. At busy times a two hour play limit will be imposed. Birthday parties are catered for with four party rooms available, as well as private hire on Sunday’s after 4pm. Vvisit www.facebook.com/bearfeetexeter