Around 75 jobs will be created by turning unwanted retail space into a ‘family fun centre’
It might not be the whole solution to the sorry plight of Croydon town centre, where a year-long lockdown has compounded storeowners’ troubles with the decline of the high street, but turning part of an increasingly vacant shopping centre into an adventure park could be part of the answer.
Hammerson, the owners of Centrale, have announced that Flip Out will be coming to Croydon this summer, with a £2million refit of a large part of two floors of the shopping centre.
In the past week, Centrale has been “re-invented” as an NHS covid-19 vaccination centre, taking up much of its Upper Mall, administering thousands of life-saving jabs every day. The sooner the Croydon public is all vaxed up, the sooner we can get back to business as usual.
Part of that, for Centrale, will be Flip Out, using otherwise disused and unwanted retail space as an adventure park, turning the mall into a “destination”, where bars, restaurants and cinemas are as much the reason for a visit to the town centre as a shopping expedition once was.
As yet, there remains uncertainty over an opening date. Coronavirus will determine when things are good and ready to launch the new venture, which will offer a range of rides, games and activities for £20 for a three-hour ticket.
Flip Out is the UK’s biggest adventure park franchise, with 25 sites around the country. In Croydon, they will use 30,000 sqft of Centrale for fairground attractions including a bumper car track, a glow in the dark ice rink, themed mini golf, a huge inflatable system, Laser Quest, interactive football, an assault course and an arcade area with all the latest games.
The venue will also include a soft play area for toddlers, and spaces for parents to relax with refreshments and snacks from the café.
Flip Out will have themed party rooms, as well as bars and restaurants. In addition, the venue will run disability sessions where carers are allowed in for free.
Around 25 full-time and 50 part-time jobs will be created, which will be Flip Out’s second “Super Centre”.
“It’s been a difficult year for everyone but now we want to give people an outlet to go have some fun and still be safe,” Richard Beese, the co-owner of Flip Out, said.
“If you’ve been stuck at home bouncing off the walls in frustration, then what better way to blow off some steam with the family? The park will be due to open in the summer, depending on government guidelines. We can’t wait for the people of Croydon to enjoy what’s on offer!”
Iain Mitchell, UK commercial director at Hammerson, said: “If the past 12 months have taught us anything, it’s that nothing beats sharing experiences with friends and family.
“We’re always looking to introduce concepts that will deliver something new and exciting for our customers, and this is a prime example of that.”
The centre will also offer fully hosted birthday parties, late-night discos and group sleepovers. Opening times will be 10am to 8pm Monday to Thursday, 10am to 9pm Friday and Saturday, and 10am to 7pm on a Sunday. Free parking will be provided for 90 minutes in the shopping centre for all Flip Out customers seven days a week when attending a session.
Hammerson’s Centrale was, of course, supposed to have been part of the £1.4billion regeneration scheme in the town centre, in partnership with Westfield
Hammerson, as the owners of a chain of malls including Birmingham’s Bull Ring and Brent Cross, have been having a tough time of it themselves, with rents down during the pandemic while well-known department stores – their tenants – such as Debenhams have gone out of business altogether.
“The current environment, exacerbated by the impact of covid-19, is undoubtedly the most challenging we have faced as a business,” David Atkins, the company’s chief exec, admitted last year. Hammerson’s share price, once 1600p, is today 39.7p, down from 74p less than a year ago.
A ride in one of Flip Out’s bumper cars could yet prove to be smoother than anything that awaits Atkins’s successor as Hammerson CEO this year.
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