Case Study - Sprouts Play Barn / Millets Farm, Oxfordshire
We're at the beginning of 2018 and we have lots of new and exciting Soft Brick builds to shout about, starting with one completed at the end of 2017; Millets Farm in Oxfordshire.
The team at Millets Farm got in touch with Soft Brick in order to design a bespoke proposal for an indoor soft play area that was "something quite different to the run-of-the-mill soft play". This initial brief went out to various UK based soft play manufacturers and we're proud to say Soft Brick were the selected manufacturer to see the project through to completion.
So let's take a closer look at the project, start to finish...
As part of the tender like selection process, the design team at Soft Brick had produced an initial conceptual design based on a generic +10,000 sqft building. Upon being awarded the contract our team of designers got to work on the real thing - a purpose built building of a similar size, tall enough to incorporate a 4-tier soft play structure at around 8m in height. The new construction was to be a steel framed industrial style building requiring formal planning permission to achieve the Class E (used to be D2) status - the requirement for indoor play. Included in the space was a mezzanine level, which provided a raised area for a sports court and freed up ground floor space for additional seating. The underside of the mezzanine level featured a kitchen / servery area to ensure that we could maximise the space for play.
The existing facilities at Millets Farm include restaurant(s), cafe, falconry, large maize maze, farm shop, garden centre, trout lake, petting zoo, conference centre and woodland area (Phoebe Woods). With all those offerings already, it was decided that the play facility was to have it's own dedicated car park area, with a new road being added to facilitate easier access.
As part of the selection process for this project, our design team had put together a conceptual design that provided a great basis for the formation of the final brief. Millets were really pleased with the features and overall farm concept we had put together in the concept and wanted as much of these ideas pulled into the final scheme.
The team at Millets had mentioned a few key elements the final proposal was to include:
- High quality - first and foremost was quality, right down to the materials and manufacture in the construction, but also the play value of the features included in the design.
- Babies & Toddlers - the research carried out by Millets highlighted the need for a large baby / toddler offering, with children 18 months and younger being a key age group for customers during the week.
- WOW features - the initial concept produced by our design team included some WOW features which really highlighted the uniqueness of the design (we'll talk about these later!). As desirable as these were, Millets were keen to cover the staples of most indoor soft play facilities; with the large open slides, the ball pools and the tube slides all getting special mention.
- Theme - the initial concept included a 'Farm' theme, but one specifically tailored to the features and facilities at Millets Farm. However, Millets were keen to take this even further and incorporate their own characters / branding. As part of the overall approach to the appearance of the building, a more realistic rather than cartoonist look was requested; a unique theme for a unique venue. Easily achievable by our theming team - the best artists in the biz!
- Education - an important element of the play is the level of detail beyond pure theming; including educational elements built into the design. Educational but most importantly FUN!
- Capacity - the play facility was to cater for more than 250 children, with the parental seating to suit.
Having all these topics to draw inspiration from and an initial concept that was met with such high praise meant a great head start for our design team. So let's have a look at the final design in a bit more detail...
We met with the team at Millets at various points throughout the design process, to ensure they were kept in the loop on progress and provide them the opportunity to offer input on the design. We started to get some finished product going through the factory and the feedback from Millets was great - we were all confident that the look of the design was going to be in-keeping with the rest of the building project.
As mentioned earlier, a key part of the initial concept / brief was to tailor the design to the attractions on site at Millets; Millets Farm is famous for their maize maze, so the structure would also have it's own maize maze too! The similarities didn't end there either, here's a taster of some of the others:
Some of the areas included in the design are:
Main Soft Play Structure (5-10 year olds)
- 4-tier Structure
- 4-lane Wavy Slide (5m) - cow print theme
- Racing Tube Slide - tree trunk theme
- Pig Sty - featuring Horizontal / Vertical Rollers, Pig themed soft play balls, pig trotter Plinths, sleeping pig Logs and more!
- Trout Lake - featuring large Ball Pool, sensory Gel Decks and Infinity Panel Whirlpool!
- Orchard - featuring educational soft play with a soft play apple tree!
- Maize Maze - an actual soft play maze with a treasure hunt to find previous designs from the real maize maze at Millets (rabbit, Maize character, crown, strawberry and clown)
- Cow Barn / Milk Parlour - featuring Stocks & Biff Bash bag themed as cows and a Dizzy Disc milk churn!
- Sheep Pen - featuring Swinging gates, Soft Play Balls themed as sheep and a Shepard (with sheep dog Roller Squeeze) to keep the sheep in check!
- Horse Stables - featuring Webbing Deck hooves and Vertical Stocks with horses / stable doors.
- Falconry area - featuring double Aerial Glide and a range of Soft Play items all themed to match the birds in the Falconry (i.e. Owls, Hawks, Eagles and more!)
- Goat Shed - featuring a "Pettigoat" Lane bridge and assorted goat themed Biff Bash bags.
- Talking Tree area - with pressure pads that trigger farm sound effects!
- Seed planting area - featuring a large educational element to help explain the seed sowing process and the types of vegetables grown at Millets.
- Phoebe Wood (4th tier area) - featuring educational elements to explain the significance behind the woodland area, the Trafalgar woods in general and their historical significance.
- ...and many many more!
Sports Court Area (5-10 year olds)
- Area themed as Alpaca / Chicken coop area, with sports balls incorporated into the theming and a themed 'Beat the Goalie' game feature (missing logs as holes!)
- Large open area (9.6m x 6m) with artificial Grass flooring and basketball rings
- Emergency exit on to mezzanine level.
Toddler & Baby Area - Structure
- Partial 2-tier soft play structure
- 2-lane Wavy Slide (2m) - tomato splat theme!
- Veg patch area with various vegetable themed soft play items; i.e. Cauliflower half ball, Biff Snake carrots / leeks and our loose soft play Veg kit!
- Scarecrow WOW feature - with pressure pads that trigger farm sound effects!
- Dedicated Baby Area - with low level walling to help segregate from older children / toddlers.
Role Play Area (3-6 year olds)
This key aspect of the play offering is one of the biggest standalone role play areas we have ever designed. All designed to look under one roof, it draws inspiration from many of the facilities at Millets - farm shops, cafes, stables (with custom horse rockers!) and more!
The area features:
- Role Play Farm Shop - featuring shop counter, matching shapes panel with themed shop produce shapes and a soft play till!
- Role Play Farmhouse Kitchen - based on the on site restaurant, this area features a soft play pizza oven, a set of soft play table & chairs, a collection of soft play sandwiches / coffee cups / cakes and a stack of dirty plates ready for the dishwasher!
- Role Play Horse Stables - tailored right down to the names of the horses, this area features 3 separate horse enclosures and customised horse rockers. No stable would be complete without a Wobbly Character jockey and Matching Shapes Panel with a winning rosette!
- Role Play Tractor Garage - featuring a customised Soft Play Tractor, Soft Play Petrol Pump, a collection of tools in the Matching Shapes Panel and a set of spare tractor tyres.
- Role Play Butchers - themed soft play counter with a collection of pre-packed Soft Play Meat packs!
- Role Play Post Office - this role play classic features a Wobbly Character Postie and a complete set of Soft Play Parcels ready to be sent off in the post box!
- Ice Cream Parlour - a new addition to our range of role play, this one featuring a collection of ice cream flavoured ball pool balls!
Toddler Soft Play Area
Again, another key element of the design brief was a large area of toddler soft play that would cater for the younger age groups throughout the week. We populated this area with our industry leading range of soft play, all themed to suit the farm theme and compliment the main structure - featuring:
- Wobbly Character Farmer character
- Cow / Pig / Duck Rockers
- Themed floor / kerb walling
- 400 Series Ziggurat
- Ladybird Treasure Hunt feature
- ...and many more!
The Completed Build
Here's a look at the finished article:
We're sure you'll agree it looks amazing!
Soft Brick are happy to say we completed the build at Millets right on schedule and think it’s one of our new favourite Farm themed builds! Working together with other on site contractors, works were completed on time and the grand opening was right on schedule!
Everyone here at Soft Brick would like to wish the team at Millets / Sprouts Play Barn the very best of luck for the future! Be sure to check out the photos and stop by to check out the farm for yourself!
Please visit http://milletsfarmcentre.com for more information!
Freetimewiththekids.com has done a great review of the Sprouts design, picking up on the details we have included throughout.
Be sure to check it out here: https://freetimewiththekids.com/2021/07/27/sprouts-playbarn-review/
For clarity, Soft Brick were not involved nor influenced this review!