Fundazzle, Beijing’s iconic indoor playground with the city’s largest ball pit, is closing down for good at the end of this month after a 20-year run.
The massive indoor play area at the southeast corner of Gongti has been loved by both kids and their parents for a generation. Built inside a massive abandoned natatorium, its main attractions were a massive three-story puzzle-like jungle-gym and the biggest ball pit in Beijing that filled the deep end of the mothballed swimming pool.
For most of its history, Fundazzle was virtually the only indoor play option — and certainly the biggest — in the city. Long before the explosion of indoor trampoline parks, mall play centers, and international school indoor gyms, Fundazzle was the go-to place for indoor fun for tens of thousands of families.
It would not be a stretch to say that every single expat parent that raised a child in pre-Olympics Beijing had been there at least once, and many made it a regular stopover on their child’s social calendar.
Gated at the front, padded at every sharp corner, and staffed with plenty of surly ladies who kept the swarms of kids from descending into complete anarchy, it was the type of place where a parent would have no problem letting their young ones play unsupervised for hours.
Parents could rest on the barstool perches or sprawl out on one of the mats that ringed the play area as their kids went nuts.
It was always a little grimy, the staff was always a little grumpy, and slightly creepy murals filled with distorted renditions of off-brand cartoon characters were a bit unnerving.
But despite its foibles, it was a guaranteed good time for toddlers to pre-teens.
My 9-year-old daughter all but grew up there. No season of her young life in Beijing has passed without attending a birthday or two at Fundazzle, and though she’s almost at the stage where she’s a bit too pre-teen, she was despondent to hear of its closure and anxiously wants to schedule a final visit before it closes for good.
A tersly-worded statement (in Chinese only) was send out via Fundazzle’s WeChat account yesterday, simply stating: “Dear Customers： Because our operation period (20 years) is almost expired, and after careful research, we have decided to close as of Jan 1, 2017. Thank you for your many years of support, and we deeply regret any inconvenience caused.”
We have no word on what is to become of the venue, but the whole southeast end of the Gongti area is now sectioned off by a large, temporary blue wall. About half the storefronts on the same strip are already vacant, which likely means the structures in the area will be torn down for redevelopment.
If you’ve never been, you’ve got two more weeks to experience this one-of-a-kind Beijing experience. If you’re a veteran you’ll want make a trip to say your final goodbyes before the end of the year.