...and how to not drown in the ball pit

Airzone, the world’s first indoor suspended net playground opens today (Feb 9)—and has already made its rounds in the news for an almost comical mishap.

The playground brought in by attractions specialist Ultimate Entertainments Group consists of four levels of activities. In its soft launch in Jan, it welcomed a mother—who ended up “drowning” in the ball pit, and posting a viral video of the event online.


View from the now infamous ball pit

But fret not, the attraction located in Little India’s City Square Mall is far from hazardous; for one, the nets strung across each level are circus-grade safety nets originally designed for trapeze artists. The playground takes its cue from existing outdoor net playgrounds in the rest of the world. Of those, Ultimate is responsible for 58 alone, but Airzone marks the first one that’s ever been done inside a shopping mall atrium.

Sam Chiu, co-founder and CFO of Ultimate, shared that despite the attraction’s rocky start, the drowning mum in question has since returned to give it another try; and even became a regular.

“From our perspective, there’s absolutely no sort of safety risk; it was more of an experiential issue,” he added.

The group took over two years in total recceing 11 malls and getting the relevant approval to set up an attraction like Airzone. “Singapore is one of the toughest markets in terms of regulations,” Chiu explained. “I like to think that Singaporeans are very kiasi and they’re extra risk-averse. We figured that if you can get it right in Singapore, you can get it right anywhere.”

They eventually received approval to set up in at least three malls—so why settle on City Square Mall?

The team cites the mall’s family demographic, a tall enough atrium, and exposed structural beams along the railings. The beams, said Chiu, perfectly mimic trees the nets are usually connected to in the outdoor playgrounds.

“We’ve seen pretty much all the malls in Singapore,” added Chiu. “This is probably one of the top three.”

As for why they chose to set up in a mall in the first place, Chiu replied, “Because we’re in Singapore; Singaporeans love air-con and shopping malls.”

“It’s a perfect fit. We’d also been doing a lot of mobile attractions in shopping malls around Singapore, and we found that there’s a big demand for entertainment and engagement in the malls,” he added.

“And now that we’ve done it in Singapore, we’re pretty confident that we can do it anywhere else in the world.”


We spoke to Irin Fairos, a supervisor and Operations Executive at Airzone, on how to make the most of your time at the playground. Here’s how to have an absolute ball—without drowning.
 

In the ball pit (Level 3)


Play ball games in the ball pit

Fairos said the staff like being innovative with the balls in the pit. Make use of the net dividing the ball pit and the empty netted area, both on Level 3, and try your hand at hand tennis or volleyball. The staff are more than happy to help you retrieve any rogue balls.

Find the needle in the haystack and win a prize

Unbeknownst to most people, there are two sole red balls hidden inside the blue and white mass in the ball pit. Find one and bring it to the staff for a small prize!
 

On the Games and Activity Zone (Level 4)


Live out your Indiana Jones fantasy

The main attraction on Level 4 is the life-sized, giant Zorb balls that roll around freely on the nets. For a little more purpose in your play, Fairos suggests recreating the iconic boulder scene from Raiders of the Lost Ark—push a ball to a corner and stand in front of it; then let go and run for your life. That, or you could just chill on the net, which here has a deeper center.

Moonwalk

There’s a reason Airzone calls its visitors “Airstronauts”. For optimum movement on the nets, take large strides, “as if you’re walking on the moon”. The net will follow your momentum so the bounce-back isn’t as hard.

Lift your knees when jumping

Fairos says there’s no real way to get over the sticky feeling of your feet to the net; but to properly jump, lift your knee as opposed to your feet. “Otherwise you’re just bouncing.”
 

On the slides


Follow the rules of watersliding

A slide connects each level for a fun alternative to going down (and admit it, we’ve all had this fantasy once before). The steepest incline is from Level 6 to Level 5; be sure to follow the rules (lie on your back with your arms and feet crossed) to get a smooth slide.

“We try not to polish it too often, because depending on the material of your clothes some kids can slide really fast; but the slides can get friction after two sessions of 50 pax each,” said Fairos.

BONUS: For parents, let your child’s natural joy for life take charge

The operations exec shared that some parents have turned a frequent hindrance that occurs in the ball pit into fun for the children. “Some of the kids lose their shoes in the ball pit, so some parents have made a game of finding the kid’s shoe; they’ll say, ‘Okay everyone go find the shoe’, and all the kids in the pit will join in. They’ll be so excited when they find the shoe.” Ah, the ingenuity of a worn-out parent.


Airzone is located at Level 2, City Square Mall, 180 Kitchener Road, and opens today (Feb 9).

Prices start at $20 for a 30-min session and $65 for a 4-sessions pass for citizens and PRs. You can also pre-book a lot online from $18 here. Tickets include free locker hire (subject to availability) and a charging port for your mobile devices. More information here