Rail City Recreation is coming up on one year of offering local families a reason to get out of the house and play. Whether it’s toddlers running, crawling, and sliding through the jungle gym or teens and parents battling it out during Nerf Wars, Rail City Rec is all about rediscovering the power of play.
On December 27, 2017, St. Thomas got its very own indoor playground located off of Burwell Road at 1 Silver Street. The facility features a soft floored playground and jungle gym for young children, an obstacle course room for older kids, a “Snack Shack” offering delicious and healthy meal options, party rooms for birthday parties, an arcade, and a laser tag arena.
“We kind of felt like we needed to go big or go home.” –Kate Clegg
Owners Kate and Chris Clegg decided to open Rail City Rec because they noticed St. Thomas had limited options as far as indoor play for kids. “Having something for everybody is kind of our goal because we know everybody is driving to London for everything,” Kate explains.
Though the couple made the decision to start a playground just 10 months before they opened their doors, Kate had the idea eight years ago. Their three kids were young at the time and she was constantly driving to London to find things to do with them. She hoped then that someone would open a playground in St. Thomas, so by the time her children were more independent and an indoor play facility still didn’t exist, the Cleggs decided in February 2017 to do it themselves.
In less than a year, Rail City Rec went from an idea to reality, and the process was a “whirlwind,” according to Kate. One of their biggest challenges proved to be assembling the jungle gym, which they purchased through Kijiji and did not come with any instructions. Luckily, Chris is an engineer, so after three weeks of building, changing, and rebuilding, the couple got the main piece of Rail City Rec’s playground assembled.
Choosing the direction for the facility’s arcade was another challenge. Though there was some pressure to put in a modern redemption-style arcade where you can exchange your tickets for prizes, Kate opted for games like air hockey, foosball, and Skee Ball instead.
All of the games involve either physical play or two people, rather than competing against your own score. This helps facilitate the kind of play they encourage at Rail City Rec. It also helps out the environment by not giving out cheap toys that break and almost immediately end up in the garbage.
1 Silver Street previously housed St. Thomas’s temporary courthouse while the city renovated the current courthouse. What was Courtroom 1 now holds a jungle gym, and where there were jail cells there is now a laser tag arena. The transformation from courthouse to playground didn’t require as many renovations as you might expect, and the Cleggs were careful to reuse or update what was already there as much as possible.
Running an indoor playground has its challenges, but Kate loves the laughter and good times she witnesses every day at the Rec. She remembers just last week watching a young dad play air hockey with his son, both laughing while they played. “My favourite thing is that it felt like they were in my own home,” she says. “It felt like I had invited people into my living room and they were having a good time.”
One of the Clegg’s policies that they have followed since the beginning is written on their website: “Rail City Recreation was founded by parents for families and the community to provide a safe, clean, inclusive, and welcoming environment.” As many local families have found, this is exactly what is achieved every day at the Rec.
You can check out Rail City Recreation’s website at https://railcityrec.com/ to find out more about their policies and what they offer. Follow along on Facebook and Instagram (@railcityrecreation) to keep up with promotions and see what’s on the menu at the Snack Shack for the week.
See you at the Rec!