New play park at shopping mall draws mixed reviews

GUILDFORD – A new interactive play park opened at the Guildford Town Centre over the weekend, offering digital games for children along walls decorated with colourful cartoon insects.

Part of the new space has a giant beehive which houses four iPads with seats for children. There is also a row of six iPads along one of the walls, while on the other side there are six “hands on” activities. A seating area offers something of a respite for weary parents who can supervise their children while they play nearby.

“In this case, we decided we wanted to try something different and be a little unique,” said Petra Barker, the mall’s community relations manager.

However, not everybody is pleased with the change. On the Guildford Town Centre Facebook page, Tara LeBlanc threatened to boycott the mall in the future.

“Very disappointed that you would have a play area to help prevent the development of children by preventing their motor skills development and their social skills development,” she wrote. “I expected more especially with all the information out their (sic) saying to limit the exposure to technology especially kids under five who you have geared the play area for.”

Callista Prosser said that when she moved to Surrey she was thrilled to find a mall with a kids play area where her toddler would burn some energy.

“Big fail, huge letdown with your choice of kids area,” she wrote. “First of all you kept it tiled, which is by far the dumbest idea ever for a kids area. Kids run, no matter how much you ask them to slow down, they twirl, they jump, they slip and fall.”

But Barker said the old play park is still available to the public just across the parking lot in Guildford rec centre. She said the mall donated it to the City of Surrey after announcing the renovations would be taking place. She said she appreciates the public feedback and understands that some people aren’t happy about the new play area.

“I think like anything, you’re going to have people that like what you’re doing and people that don’t like what you’re doing,” she said. “And I think what we’re sensing is that people were expecting the same as we had before.”

The process to redevelop the play park began in July 2012 and the final proposal and renderings were approved and accepted in March 2014. Studio Y Creations Inc beat out seven competitors that bid on the project.

Barker said the location was chosen in part because it is across from the washrooms. This was something customers had asked about in the past and she said the mall felt it was important to offer shoppers a rest area.

“Our intent was just to have a little space for a break,” she said. “We’re shopping, we need a little time out for a 10-minute break and then carry on. It’s not meant to be a full-on playground.”

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