PARENTS have reacted with fury to the announcement that daily play sessions will end at Dragon’s Castle children’s area at the Villa Marina.
From April 29, the loss-making venue will only be available for parties and special events.
Department of Community, Culture and Leisure chief executive Nick Black said they hoped to find a private sector operator and ‘expect to advertise for expressions of interest in the near future’.
Facebook group Save Dragon’s Castle has more than 1,100 members.
Mother of two Claire Hughes, of Ramsey said: ‘I find it hard to believe that they couldn’t make Dragon’s Castle work. It’s heaving. Every session is packed. It gets parties in there all the time.’
Claire, who has a three-year-old and a 15-month-old, was unhappy there was no consultation and suggested other options to make some savings could have been looked at such as closing the cafe and having the Villa Marina reception taking payments.
She said Jumping Jacks soft play area at the National Sports Centre was not an alternative as it only caters for ‘three months up to two years olds tops’ and runs two days a week in term time.
Save Dragon’s Castle Facebook group member Caroline Maddrell, of Douglas, posted: ‘Argh! Please don’t close! My little boy is just starting to walk so will finally be able to utilize Dragon’s Castle, but already loves it.’
She said ‘easy ways’ to cut its losses were to reduce staffing levels and improve the food and drinks available.
Sharon Suwinski, of Douglas, posted: ‘I have three children and to take them there in the school holidays there is little change from £15 for one hour’s play so fingers crossed if they manage to privatise it they won’t be doing what the government do best (short changing hard working families with young children!)’
DCCL Minister Graham Cregeen MHK said: ‘Considering the department’s well publicised financial position and with alternative facilities available in the Douglas area such as Jumping Jacks at the NSC, the department has taken the decision to change how we operate Dragon’s Castle play area. Unfortunately we can no-longer offer daily play sessions. However, Dragon’s Castle will still be available for birthday parties and special events such as the popular Easter and Hop Tu Naa parties.’
Mr Black said the venue had been ‘operating at a loss for some years’: ‘We have tried a large number of initiatives to increase usage and income but have not been able to break even.
‘We do not believe that we can increase the charges further so have decided to reduce our costs by changing the way we operate.
‘There are alternative private sector operations in the Douglas and Onchan area already and plans for a new play area/ family entertainment venue with bar/ restaurant in Douglas.’
He said no staff were being made redundant, and were being redeployed.