Hannah Lee is quite possibly the luckiest kid in the North Okanagan.
The energetic two-year-old is the daughter of Adam and Sara Lee, who recently opened Ya Ya’s Play Centre in Vernon.
“It starts right there,” said Adam, pointing to little Hannah as she began her ascent on some climbing apparatus.
“I didn’t really know anything about these things until we had kids. It’s just a matter of finding something to do with them. When winter comes around they can only spend so much time outside.”
The 4,000 square-foot facility, located across from Seaton Secondary on 43rd Avenue, features a three-level, interconnected play structure filled with slides, ball pit, obstacles and a rope climb. There is also an interactive play area with more than 15 games changing every few minutes.
Ya Ya’s requires that kids be supervised by a parent or guardian, but Sara adds it is a great way for both parties to unwind.
“It’s nice to have a place where the parents can come and sit and read their book or drink their coffee or meet with a girlfriend and catch up,” said Sara, noting that while the play structure is aimed at children up to age 12, parents can also climb in the equipment with the kids.
“The parents like the slides just as much as the kids.”
If parents do prefer to kick back, Adam says the high visibility play area allows them to keep a close eye on their children as they scurry about the equipment.
“That’s probably the No. 1 thing that people like about our facility is that kids don’t disappear,” said Adam, formerly a long-time employee at Vernon’s Speedy Glass. “They can’t watch them have fun on their own.”
It will be a while before Hannah’s little sister, two-month-old Rachel, can play with the big kids. But once she’s a bit older and starts to get a little more mobile, she can go for a romp in the toddlers’ play area, geared towards children three and under. It has soft play toys and learning toys.
With the closest play centres being in Kelowna (EnergyPlex) and Salmon Arm (Junglemania), the Lees wanted to bring a similar operation to Vernon. More importantly, they wanted to be the first and they wanted to open before winter.
“It’s just one more thing Vernon didn’t have. It’s one more option for all the kids,” said Adam.
“We knew we were in a race with other people for the same idea. It was just matter of who was going to do it first in this town.
“This is the time where you’re doing it, or you’re not. It had to be going for the winter, or we’d have to wait for next year.”
The Lees spent several months researching potential play equipment manufacturers on the Internet before they settled on a Vancouver-based company.
Once they put their business plan in motion, “It came together quick,” said Sara.
The Lees didn’t realize it when they chose their company name (Adam said it is because the play centre is a place for kids to get their ‘Ya Yas’ out), but it couldn’t be more fitting. They later discovered that in Greek, the term ‘Yiayia’ means grandmother, and that in Filipino, a ‘yaya’ is a nanny or caregiver.
Ya Ya’s offers day passes, 10-punch passes and yearly passes. They also have the ability to host birthday parties for up to 20 kids.
Ya Ya’s plans to host a grand opening in late January.