Imagine a place for the children of Jamestown, Chautauqua County, and surrounding Western New York and Northwestern PA communities to play indoors year-round. A space to climb, throw balls, jump, create their own play, and play with friends.
That is all about to become a reality with TheZone. Located within the Northwest Arena, TheZone will be an interactive play space for children ages 2 through 12 that builds upon the Arena’s 20 years of successful stewardship of youth recreation and athletics.
Designed by Jack Rouse Associates and Cortina Productions, both world-renowned firms who design displays for museum, sport, and entertainment venues including the National Comedy Center, TheZone will be colorful, fun, and inviting, from the LED marquee that welcomes you in, to the five zones of diverse, dynamic activities inside.
“At JRA, we’re excited to be partnering with the Northwest Arena and Cortina Productions on another exciting project in Jamestown, NY,” said Rick O’Connell, JRA Senior Project Director. “While the National Comedy Center (next door) was geared more towards adults and teenagers, TheZone project focuses on children and the power of learning through play. It is a sports themed children’s museum/attraction that will be the first of its kind in the area and will be an incredible addition to the community!”
Kicking Off the Campaign
The Campaign for TheZone is kicking off a $4 million dollar fundraising effort, the key part of an $8.5 million project to expand the Northwest Arena. The physical expansion was completed in May of 2021 and $700,000 has been pledged to-date toward TheZone’s fixtures and exhibits. With support from individuals, corporations, foundations, and public resources, TheZone expects to be welcoming guests during summer 2022.
Right now, the Jamestown area and Chautauqua County offer far too few recreational spaces for kids, especially indoor spaces they can use during our long winters. This concern has been documented in the State of Play Western New York report published in 2017 by the Aspen Institute and funded by the Ralph C. Wilson Jr. Foundation. Furthermore, this report identified the Northwest Arena as the only non-membership-based facility in Chautauqua, Cattaraugus, and Allegany Counties providing year-round, indoor youth recreation opportunities.
“A Vital Community Asset”
TheZone will become a vital community asset that offers an engaging sports-themed experience that encourages the development of physical skills and mental stimulation though indoor, year-round play time. Physical activity yields lifelong benefits, from improved cognitive function to better health into adulthood – and if children are engaged in regular activity before 12, they tend to stay engaged. Unfortunately, right now only 16% of kids in Western New York are active enough, meeting CDC recommendations for at least one hour of physical activity per day.
Three groups will benefit immediately from TheZone: local families eager for great experiences for their kids that they can enjoy again and again, families visiting the Northwest Arena and the City of Jamestown, as well as those visiting Chautauqua County. It will also make the City of Jamestown a better place to live and do business because TheZone will feed on – and fuel- the success of its neighboring attractions.
TheZone complements the work of existing organizations which serve our community’s youth. It will increase Jamestown and Chautauqua County’s momentum toward becoming a renowned destination for family fun by enhancing investments to City Parks, the National Comedy Center, Jamestown Riverwalk, and other family-focused places to visit. Lowering the financial barriers to play is a key part of the project’s purpose; kids from the lowest income bracket are seven times more likely than those from the highest to be active zero days a week (again, according to the data from State of Play Western New York.)
Disparities will be addressed through affordable admission tickets, play scholarships, sponsored free play events, and partnering with clubs, agencies, and providers already serving community youth and empowering them to host programming at TheZone.
Physical barriers are being lowered too; TheZone features a fully ADA-compliant design! All kids can expect to experience play in a way meaningful to them, from designing a sports uniform to testing their speed against real and simulated rivals, climbing, throwing balls, jumping, and simply having fun creating their own play in an enriching, age-appropriate space.
TheZone is a prime opportunity for Jamestown. Nationwide, children’s museums add $5.5 billion to the economy annually – in part because each dollar in museum spending ripples out to create $3.66 in economic activity. Furthermore, an analysis from AECOM conservatively projects that TheZone will ultimately draw 45,000 visitors per year once well-established. This is in addition to the Northwest Arena’s 250,000 annual turnstile visits.
Nearly twenty years ago, the Northwest Arena opened its doors – and a new chapter in the life of the Chautauqua County region began. The Northwest Arena has become a vital asset to the community, a destination for those beyond, and a catalyst for revitalization. Looking toward the next twenty years, the Northwest Arena is perfectly positioned to usher forth this new project that will enhance Jamestown’s appeal to visitors, fuel the city’s economic momentum, and most importantly bring something wonderful and new to the experience of children who grow up in and visit the region.
Scheduled tours of TheZone to witness firsthand how this project will elevate the state of play in Western New York are available by registering at funatthezone.org. Private tours may be arranged by contacting email@example.com or by calling (716) 484-2624 x 207. Donations may be made in-person or online at funatthezone.org.