Sunday, 2 December 2012

Portsmouth PlayZone Adult Night 26 October 2012

Date: Friday 26 October 2012
Venue: Portsmouth PlayZone
Who Went: Just me (though many other adults turned up for the evening)

N.B. Any use of "tonight" or "this evening" in this report means Friday 26 October 2012.

Introduction
Portsmouth PlayZone is a large indoor play complex located on the outskirts of Portsmouth in Oak Park Industrial Estate, Cosham. Each Friday evening it runs an adult only session on a pay-and-play basis from 8pm to 11pm. That is to say, you just turn up on the night, pay at the reception and play. Having previously been to the adult night at Portsmouth PlayZone in September 2005 and September 2006, I felt time was long overdue to go there again. Obviously my desire to attend the adult night at PlayZone necessitated an overnight stay in Portsmouth, so I decided to make this part of a whole weekend Portsmouth 2012.

Getting To Portsmouth PlayZone
My evening began with a meal at The Lord Palmerston (Wetherspoon) in central Southsea. When I left the pub just after 7pm I began walking to Fratton station aiming to catch a train to Cosham. During my meal I had already worked out a route to Fratton station on my map. Following the route was generally straightforward, though there were a few junctions where I had to stop and think which way to go next. Having got to Fratton station, I caught the 19:31 Cardiff Central train. Ten minutes later I left the train at Cosham station.

After that I walked the rest of the way to PlayZone. Finding my way there was a bit of an adventure as I didn't have a detailed map of this area. I walked along one road as far as a large elongated roundabout, and had to find the correct exit into Oak Park Industrial Estate. As I continued walking I difficulty finding PlayZone, and wondered if I was going the right way. The 8pm start of the session was fast approaching. Eventually I saw someone and asked the way; I was on the right road, and had to continue a little further along it. I finally got to PlayZone at 8:01pm.

Welcome To Portsmouth PlayZone
A large number of adults were queuing outside to go in. Staff were checking bags, and in some cases identification, on entry. Since I was towards the back of the queue it took me a long time to get in. For identification I showed my bank cards on entry. The staff told me they didn't really need to see those, but they did ask to check my rucksack for glass bottles. Fortunately my water bottles in my bag were plastic. Once admitted the time taken for me to remove my shoes and put my bag in the cloakroom meant I finally took to the play equipment at 8:25pm, which was later than I expected or wanted.

Main Play Area Features
The main play area was designed and installed by Taylor-Made Play Equipment (now called David Taylor Design). In fact here's their design sketch of the main play area It has the following features to enjoy.

Bumpy slide
A four lane Astra (bumpy) slide. It's in all colours of the rainbow, red at the top working to blue at the bottom

Surf Rider
A blue double drop slide (i.e. vertical drop, flat bit, slope, land in a ball pit). It lands on the first floor, so if you want to get back to the top for another go, you need to get to the ground floor by another route to be able to climb the main staircase to the top.

Red Devil
A red drop slide (vertical drop followed by run-out; it has two launch heights). If you like Oblivion at Alton Towers or Griffon at Busch Gardens, you'll love the Red Devil. Forget being harnessed into your seat on a ride car, you just sit on the beam, push yourself forwards whilst holding the beam, and let go to enjoy a free-fall drop with no harness whatsoever. Not for the faint hearted. Although the run-out is mostly flat, there's a slight hump towards the end.

Black Hole
A black tube slide. It's pitch dark inside as you slide down it.

Crawl Maze
The void underneath the padded pit contains several vertical partitions, thereby forming a zigzag maze running end to end. There is an entrance at each end and a couple more entrances along its course. Due to its low headroom you have to crawl through it. Furthermore the channel is narrow, which creates a problem if you meet someone crawling towards you from the opposite end. Fortunately there are a few dead-end channels at various points which one person can then use as passing bays.

Soft Play Equipment
An assortment of soft play equipment, including wringer rollers (horizontal rollers), slither chicane, V-net bridges, level changers (sets of cylinders), over and under barriers, spinning poles, spinning discs, a zigzag web climber and tumble tower.

Session Overview
I entered the play area eager to take to the equipment. Numerous other adults were already enjoying themselves on the slides and soft play equipment. One group of adults wore fancy costumes, which suggested they might have been there to have a party. My outfit was a bit more down-to-earth: my 2010 RCCGB T-shirt and a pair of jogging bottoms. Pop music in the background added to the atmosphere.

Bumpy slide
I began with the 4-lane bumpy slide; one go per lane left to right, followed by one go per lane left to right.

Surf Rider
Next I enjoyed eight goes on the blue double drop slide. Although a fun slide, its biggest drawback is that it exits on to the first floor. After each go I had to return to the ground floor in order to go back up the main staircase to the slides. Each time around I found the tumble tower was the quickest route to the ground floor.

Red Devil
Now for the Red Devil; straight down and out. I enjoyed four goes from the lower beam followed by four goes from the upper beam. I had to wait for three or four in front of me to slide before it was my turn.

Soft Play and Crawl Maze
At this point I took to the soft play equipment. Starting at the front left of the ground floor I worked my way around as follows:

Ground floor: X-changer up to halfway point and down > over and under barriers > horizontal spinning pole > up ladder to first floor.

Back of first floor: wringer rollers > slither chicane > down fireman's poles to ground floor.

Ground floor: crawl maze > spinning poles > spinning discs > up zigzag web climber to first floor > down tumble tower to ground floor > up level changer (cylinders) to first floor > down bungees to ground floor > X-changer up to first floor.

First floor: swing over nets > wringer rollers > slither chicane > V-net bridge (above pit) > bish bash pendulums > V-net bridge (above bumpy slide) > down level changer (cylinders) to ground floor.

Coffee Break
Around 9:35pm I took a break from playing to enjoy a cup of coffee in Café Zone. However I didn't have anything to eat.

Just before 10pm I returned to the play area. For the first few minutes I had some photos taken of me on various individual items of soft play equipment. I also had one go on the Red Devil (lower beam), in order to get my picture taken whilst launching myself.

Black Hole
The one remaining slide I had still not gone down, so I was determined to slide this tube slide next. I had four goes, lying on my back each time.

Soft play and crawl maze
Back to the soft play equipment as follows:

Ground floor (starting at the front left): X-changer up to halfway point and down > over and under barriers > horizontal spinning pole > up ladder to first floor.

Back of first floor: wringer rollers > slither chicane > down fireman's poles to ground floor.

Ground floor: crawl maze > spinning poles > spinning discs > up zigzag web climber to first floor > down tumble tower to ground floor > up level changer (cylinders) to first floor.

First floor: swing over nets > down ramp in back left corner to ground floor > up ladder in back left corner to first floor.

Back of first floor: walked past the wringer rollers and slither chicane (didn't go through them) > V-net bridge (above pit) > bish bash pendulums > V-net bridge (above bumpy slide) > down bungees to ground floor.

Red Devil
The end of the session was fast approaching, so to finish off I returned to the Red Devil aiming to have as many goes as possible before it was time to leave. I had time for three goes from the lower beam followed by three goes from the upper beam.

End of Session
At 10:40pm the music stopped. An announcement was made stating that the session was over and everyone must leave the play area at once. It seemed as though this was to get everyone to collect their belongings from the cloakroom, put their shoes back on and be out of the building before the official closing time of 11pm.

Summary of my session in order of activity:
Bumpy slide one go per lane left to right, followed by one go per lane left to right.
Blue double drop slide 8
Red Devil lower beam 4
Red Devil upper beam 4
Soft play and crawl maze
Coffee at Café Zone
Various individual soft play items + 1 go on Red Devil (lower beam)
Black Hole 4
Soft play and crawl maze
Red Devil lower beam 3
Red Devil upper beam 3

Cumulative summary of slides:

Slide
Total
Black Hole
4
Blue double drop slide
8
Bumpy slide[1]
8
Red Devil lower beam
8
Red Devil upper beam
7
TOTAL
35

[1] two goes per lane left to right.

Back To Guest House
At 10:52pm I finally left the building; I was one of the last to leave. Having left it was very cold outside. Just after 11pm my pre-booked taxi turned up to take me back to my guest house. Just after 11:15pm I was back in my room.

Outro

Highlights
Playing on the giant slides and all the soft play equipment.
Fifteen goes on Red Devil.

Lowlights
Difficulty finding PlayZone close to the start of the session.
Long wait to enter the premises, partly due to the checks being made on entry.
End of session announcement; the hardest part was having to leave the play area when the session ended.

Summary
Altogether an evening of fun, Taylor-Made fun. Although Portsmouth PlayZone is not the largest indoor play complex I've played in this year, the fact that this session was just for adults added to the fun. It was great to be a child for the night. A good turnout too, it just goes to show there's plenty more adult kids out there besides me.

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