Newtopia indoor play park opens to crowds
Montgomery Advertiser - 7/19/2018
July 18--Things weren't always easy for Fiona Johnson, growing up as an autistic child here. She saw those around her struggle at times, too.
But she beamed on Wednesday as kids rushed in to play together at the Newtopia indoor park in east Montgomery where the 19-year-old now works.
"It brings me such joy, seeing their smiles and hearing their laughter," Johnson said. "I understand that a lot of kids have issues, but when they come here they're all happy. I just love being a part of that.
"I wish I had this place when I was growing up. I would have loved it."
The park at 3731 Malcolm Drive features 14,000 square feet of slides, tubes, catwalks, swings, ball pits and more under a colorful backdrop of animal murals and statues. It's a reference to the Biblical story of Noah and a hint at the intention of the place -- to create something that supervisor Rachel Ranczka calls a "new utopia" where kids can come together in a safe environment.
Employees include early childhood education students from AUM who can work with kids one-on-one. Newtopia is offering homeschool groups the ability to use the party rooms for lectures during the day, they're planning special events for kids with disabilities and they have a donation program set up for education entities and nonprofit groups who bring kids there.
It's built for kids 12 or younger, and there's a separate area for toddlers if they don't want to play with bigger kids. There's even a full café frying up dinosaur-shaped chicken nuggets and other lunch food.
Ranczka said the response has been overwhelming since they opened the doors for the first time a week ago.
"We've had so many people, it's more than we ever expected," she said. "We're just so thankful and blessed that so many people have showed up."
Admission is $8 on weekdays and $9 on weekends for kids 2 or younger. It costs $3 more for kids older than 2. Two adults get in free with each paid child. Everyone has to wear socks, and they offer custom, reusable ones for purchase at Newtopia if you don't bring your own.
There's no limit on how long children can play, though the place has a "three strikes" policy for kids who cause problems. On the third strike, they're sidelined for the day.
Mollie Chapman was just happy to have a place closer to home than inflatables house Pump It Up a few miles away. She brought along two of Newtopia's first customers Wednesday -- her 4-year-old and 7-month-old daughters.
"It's nice," Chapman said. "It's big and spacious, good prices."
Newtopia is open 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday.
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