Jen and I took Connor to a new place today, the Tree Paad [sic] near Malta. It's a warehouse space that's been converted to a huge arcade and play area. Once you cross the various and sundry arcade games, the highlight of this facility is what I call the Romper Room area.
(Y'know, what your Mom always said your house/livingroom/bedroom wasn't. When I told my Mom that we'd taken Connor to a Romper Room, she had no idea what I was talking about. Aaahhh, Senility...)
Now this thing is huge. For reference, the body you see on the lower half is a roughly 6' man, bent over. Really huge. And surprisingly well built. As kids enjoy small short spaces, there are plenty of tunnels, crawl spaces, padded stairs, and slides. I was concerned at the build quality of a couple of things, as Connor either couldn't navigate a couple things (just too short being almost 2 years old), or wanted me with him (such as a wicked tube slide). After gingerly testing each item, I found that it's all very sturdy and seems very safe. The entire structure is surrounded with nets, so there's little-to-no chance of someone falling.
Before you get inside, you're greeted to tremendous whooshing sounds, occasional staccato tones, and maybe the occasional foam-rubber ball on the floor. Inside are a few hundred more of these balls, a few ball guns mounted on the upper deck of the structure, and a ball fountain in the middle on the ground level. Some fabric shopping bags are left strategically around the place as ammo for the guns. When shot, the balls move pretty fast, but don't hurt unless they should catch you just right, but no more than a wince. (Though a sk8r-boi-looking early-to-middle teen wearing the 'uniform' t-shirt thought it would be funny to intentionally shoot Jen in the face. Little shit.) The kids were running round having a great time shooting at each other or the targets around the place, chasing each other and picking up balls. They all seemed to instinctively pick up the balls and put them in the basin of the ball fountain. Every so often, someone would push the big green button on it, and the air compressor would release a huge gust of air throwing all of those collected balls in the air. There would invariably be joyful screams, and Connor would wave his arms!
There are also a trio of standard slides to the left of the photo, from the top of the inside of the structure to the entrance on the ground, as well as a couple of tube slides (think water park slides without the water) inside. Connor took to the standard slide just fine, but wanted to go down next to me. The water park slide that I used with Connor was a little rough. Well, the tube was smooth, but it was a harsh angle (a very fast 180 deg.) and steep (about 10' vertically over maybe 20' of tube.) The other thing is that it flings you a bit out of the end of the tube. You land on padding, but there's no way to see if there's someone standing at the entrance. And kids like to try to climb up slides. Eventually Connor started riding it himself, but I couldn't blame him if he hadn't. (And the static inside that tunnel was outrageous.)
Outside of the Romper Room structure are a bunch of well constructed and padded objects for the kids to play on. It's just about the perfect playroom for kids by itself. Benches surround for the exhausted parents to crash on (and of course for the kids to crawl on.) It's very well done.
There are food and drinks available, as well as some options for older kids, though I don't know what. The price was exceptionally reasonable: $4 for a toddler, and they don't charge for the parents. While initially I would have been a little miffed at them charging for Jen and I, after going, I'm surprised that they don't. The amount of crawling about I did today seemed about standard compared to the other parents today, and it was significant.
There are only a couple of things that I'd like to seem improved. First is the noise. It's a repurposed warehouse, and the ball apparatus make a hell of a racket. We were concerned at first that Connor would be scared, it was so loud. This is easy and inexpensive to fix: Cloth hangings from the roof as sound dampeners. The worst part would probably be getting them up there. Second thing, isn't really a problem, but... All the staff that I saw were obviously teens. I'm sure that there are a couple of adults, but I didn't see any. Granted, this isn't a Day Care, and the more parents you have, the more likely that First Aid treatment and such will be available, but when one of the 'staff' is shooting foam balls at my wife's head, I get a bit irritated. The good thing about that is that the teens can interact with the little kids and supervise/corral/referee them (there were some parties going on) a bit more fluidly than an adult would. I think an adult would probably kill some of the childrens' spontenaety...
After playtime, we had lunch with Colleen and her daughter Abby (the most precocious 2.5 year old I've ever seen), who seems to have claimed Connor as her boyfriend. The highlight for me was towards the end when she wanted to give him hugs and kisses, I got her to repeat "Give me some sugar, baby" (a la Evil Dead and Army of Darkness)!
With that, I'll return you to your regularly scheduled geeking and rants...
UPDATE: I realized that I failed to state whether or not I had a good time. Yes, I had a great time!