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Fun Center Play-a-bility : The Magic Formula

As you start researching the amusement industry and looking around, searching and speaking with amusement equipment suppliers and manufacturers, you will start to hear a very common phrase from many, and that is; "Play-A-Bility".

If you are reading this, we can assume it is your intent to start or grow an amusement business of some kind, and as such, this is a good word to keep in mind. Play-a-bility is a very appropriate term when it comes to family fun centers, indoor party centers and amusement attractions as this is truly what it is all about.

There are two distinct forms of Play-a-bility;

1) Your Centers Overall Guest Play-a-bility
2) The Indivdual Equipment Play-a-bility.

Play-A-Bility = Guest Experience

Overall, play-a-bility speaks to how playable, or how much fun your family entertainment center is. When it comes to play-a-bility it's not just about the activities you have included in your mix. This measure of guest experience and play-a-bility comes from the activities and food or concessions you offer, right through the kind of party packages and customer service expectations - your guests want it to be a fun experience, from start to finish.

Upon leaving your center, the best you and your team can shoot for is to leave your guest feeling like they want to tell all of their friends how much fun they had at your place. This positive word-of-mouth viral communications is the best and cheapest form of advertising and marketing, and it is primarily derived by creating a high degree of play-a-bility which in turn creates the overall guest experience.

Play-a-bility affects every aspect of your center and your center's employees (or as Disney calls them - cast members) and should be a central component in your overall sales & marketing and guest experience strategy. Professional and on-going staff training will help your employees to understand this - you are only as good as your last performance. Your facility staff need to be trained on how to add play-a-bility to their daily guest interactions. Specifically, for childrens entertainment centers, parents (especially mothers) wish to see their child engaged, excited and sharing many "mom, look at me..." moments. This is done by recognizing that once the guest arrives, he/she is your full time responsibility. It is up to you and your team to literally spread the fun, to create a sense of Play-a-bility at your center.

Play-a-bility may be encourage through your staff by empowering them to go into the activity areas and engage your guests. Get them to play on, in and with the activities along side your guests encouraging them to 'try this' or 'do that for a better score' or creating non-competitive challenges for kids within the play environment. For example organizing an activity challenge within a party group. This helps to create the kharma of guest play-a-bility and will return to your center in the form of repeat visits. The primary goal of facility design is comfortable play-a-bility.

Amusement Equipment ROI = Play-A-Bility

When making decisions on your centers activity list there are many factors to consider. Cost, space allocation, capacity, through-put, safety, time-to-return-on-investment, and others. All of these combined really add up to the play-a-bility factor. As a facility expense (cost, space allocation, capacity, through-put, safety, etc) how does it provide a return? Is the activity worth the expense? Your task in securing activities is to make your facility as fun, as interactive and as entertainingly engaging as possible, specific to your target age user... so does this particular activity measure up? Lets look specifically at soft-contained-playgrounds and how they are typically priced.

To best determine what kind of a return an indoor playground will provide, we need to draw a comparison between costs and play-a-bility. First off, pricing for a soft contained indoor playground is based on a two factor formula. The first factor is capacity. How big of a playground do you need to handle all of the traffic you expect on your busiest weekend day? and far more importantly, 2) The Play-a-bility offered by the playground.

The Play-a-bility factor is driven by the kinds and amounts of activities within the playground. For example, the more activities you have the more, interactive and diverse those activities are, the more "playable" and ultimately the more fun your playground is going to be for your guests, and that has a direct connection with an on-going repeat play desire (a good thing). Ultimately Play-a-bility, not only in your contained playground, but in your entire activity mix, drives a high repeat desire for families to return and play again and again.

So when it comes to pricing for indoor playgrounds, here's what we have learned... pricing for contained play is based on a sliding scale : capacity / playability. Typically this means anywhere from $700 - $1200 per child capacity. For example, if you need a playground that can handle 100 children at one time, on the lower, inexpensive end it could run $70 - $80k and on the higher end $115k - $120k. In the above example, the playground would be exactly the same size, the same color - the only difference would be the play-a-bility or the amount of activities contained within the playground. (For other ideas and design concepts visit SmartPlaygrounds.com)

The above figures would most likely not include any major themeing, as themeing can be very expensive and can quickly eat up 20% - 30% of your budget. To learn more about themeing, review the article titled: Themeing Your Indoor Playground. Get out there and get going!

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