CHARITY workers said goodbye to the past and looked forward to a bright future as a play centre in Guildford was demolished to make way for a new £1.2m building. The centre, on the north side of Stoke Park, consists of temporary buildings and has hosted play schemes for Disability Challengers since the early 1980s. Each year the charity provides more than 4,000 places in play groups.
Having operated at full capacity for years the charity will move into the new buildings before the end of the year.
Staff turned out to watch the demolition earlier this month and play services manager Paul Wilson, said: “It was an emotional day watching the Challengers Guildford Centre demolished.
“I’ve been at Challengers for 17 years and over that time I’ve seen so many children benefit from the fantastic fun they’ve enjoyed there, and it’s for them that we need to build a new play centre and provide a better quality and bigger play space.
“We can’t wait to show the new centre to hundreds of children and their families when we move back in at Christmas time.
“In the meantime, the Guildford Play schemes will continue to operate from Urban Saints on Stoke Park.”
The new Challengers centre will continue to be home to the Guildford Play Scheme, with capacity for an additional 50 disabled children. There are currently 150 children who use the scheme and the building will provide an enhanced and larger play space. It will also give the charity capacity to expand their future youth and young adult schemes.
A Big Build Appeal is underway to raise funds for the development and running costs.
Laura Sercombe, Disability Challengers chief executive, said: “The Big Build is an ambitious project for Challengers and we still have to do lots of fundraising if we’re going to achieve all we want for the space, so we hope the Guildford community will continue to get behind us and help make this possible.
“My door is always open to anyone who would like to come and see the plans. We’re all so excited to share our vision for the Guildford Play Centre and Challengers.”
The new centre will be a two-storey building covering 357sq m. It will have specialist spaces such as an art room, soft play area and sensory room.
Play groups are provided for children over the age of two as well as services for teenagers and adults up to 25.
The Guildford building is the headquarters for the charity, which helps 1,400 disabled children and young people each year. It operates at schools and youth centres throughout Surrey.