A festive, front-room shoot-out triggered the move by two couples to set up Yorkshire’s only dedicated Nerf centre which has opened in Hull.
Eager to enjoy their Christmas drinks party in peace and get out of the firing line of their gun-toting sons, Kris and Donna Guy and Dan and Jo Tills joined forces to find somewhere else for the boys to play.
Even before they’d completed the two-hour-plus drive to a centre in Warrington they’d decided to fill the gap in the market. A broadcast on BBC Radio Humberside alerted them to Saturday morning business start-up surgeries at 360 chartered accountants in Hull, where plans began to take shape.
The result is Hull Blast, which has emerged from the conversion of a mobility scooter warehouse in Stockholm Road, Hull, and provides more than 7,000 square feet of space for children and adults to enjoy the Nerf craze. Kris and Jo manage the centre, Dan and Donna are fellow directors, and the venture has created nine additional jobs.
Sean Maloney of 360 said the Hull Blast directors followed up their enthusiasm with a comprehensive response to his request for more research while he activated his business network to provide advice from planning professionals and funding from the Chamber Acorn Fund (Humber) Limited and Finance for Enterprise, part of the Northern Powerhouse Investment Fund.
It needed input from Hull-based architects and planning consultants Eznat to overcome obstacles around change of use and compliance with regulations to accommodate the larger volumes of people – from three or four at the previous storage facility to 80 or more for Hull Blast.
Joe Bvumburai, architect and director of Eznat, said planners initially rejected the proposal for a leisure development in an industrial zone, but with the help of Benson Planning Studio they succeeded with a second application.
Getting consent was not easy. The mood was favourable but the idea did not fit with the Local Plan so the application was initially refused. We re-applied and highlighted the empty space in the area and some precedents for change of use to leisure.
We also demonstrated the importance of the centre in terms of promoting physical activity among young people and we emphasised the potential of Hull Blast to attract people to the area. This is a good example of how we use our skills and expertise to help people deliver development projects. We are currently working on a number of other projects in Hull and further afield, particularly residential developments.
Caroline Sturgeon, Business Advisor at Chamber Acorn Fund (Humber) Limited, said:
We provided funding options and ongoing mentoring support, all at no cost to Hull Blast. Working with them to bring such an exciting concept to Hull was a great opportunity for us to contribute to a successful business. Given the Nerf brand is recognised worldwide, we could see that this venture was going to be something special and not only would it bring a great new leisure facility to the area but would also provide employment opportunities. They have great ambition and vision for Hull Blast and we helped them to realise those ideas.
Kris said the aim now is to build on the momentum of a successful launch event and a stringent testing process which saw Hull Blast put through its paces by three football teams from Brandesburton – the club where the four boys play.
We spotted this place early in 2017. We had a look round and it was a perfect fit with our ideas. With three game zones, a restaurant and a party room we can get up to 60 people playing at once while others take a break
We have parking for about 70 cars, so there’s plenty of room for minibuses and even coaches. We’re getting group interest from across the region and we’ve had a lot of calls from businesses – we are open to anyone from the age of six and after bringing in the footballers we know it’s great for team bonding.
This is the only one in Yorkshire and if it goes well why not do some more? It’s not about the money though. It’s about bringing something new to the area and doing something that we enjoy.
It seems like yesterday that we were sitting enjoying Christmas drinks with Nerf darts flying round our heads. It’s amazing how all these businesses have come together to help us turn our own idea into reality.