Sluggers batting cages, based on Latin American baseball culture, are the latest to join the company’s Eat Drink Play offering that features across its London sites and includes big Insta attractions like Bad Axe throwing, music themed crazy golf, a glow effects space and board games galore.
“We’re looking to launch a further 10 sites over the next five years, starting with Bristol and Manchester, that will be a mix of Boxpark iconic city centre locations and Boxhall sites in existing landmark buildings with a strong cultural heritage,” says chief executive Roger Wade.
The company has just struck a growth acceleration deal with Lloyds Banking Group’s private equity arm LDC and is on track to generate revenues of £18 million plus this financial year.
Wade opened the first Boxpark a decade ago in Shoreditch, a ground-breaking pop-up food and independent retail mall housed in shipping containers.
Now also in Wembley and Croydon, Boxpark is renowned for fair prices – £5 for a beer or a quality dish, its open-door welcome and wonderfully exuberant customers, who have won billions of views on social media.
The games development is giving new hospitality and retail businesses the chance to partner with the company and create jobs, explains Wade.
“Boxpark is accessible to everyone, whether you are part of a group, a couple or drop in on your own.
“We believe in physical retail and the high street. That’s why we’re raising the bar by expanding experiences. People want the touch and feel of being together. Our visitors have contributed millions to the local economies.”
Neil Garner, founder of SFG Club, the grown-up playground company behind Sluggers, added: “We couldn’t say no to the opportunity to open our first standalone site at Boxpark Croydon this summer.
“Londoners are looking for new ways to socialise. Our visitors can challenge their friends to a game and grab a bite to eat and a cocktail, all in one place, for the ultimate night out. We have created a venue that moves away from traditional baseball, but offers guests an exciting, unique take on the sport.”
Wade, a south Londoner, stepped in to help regenerate Croydon after it was hit hard by the 2011 riots and was suffering long-term urban decline, its landscape a succession of featureless high rises.
Advised not to venture, he saw potential and went ahead, opening Boxpark on a soulless patch of waste land, but brilliantly situated a step away from East Croydon rail station.
Today the space has a spirit it never had before and has become a spacious destination in its own right that is authentic and enhancing, yet undiluted by gentrification. With super friendly staff and a host of activities, it has become the perfect drop in and showcase for what a diverse community can offer.
One bar staff worker, a woman student, explaining what it had meant to her working there since the summer when restrictions eased, said:
“I’m at home studying online and isolated, you lose the knack and confidence to speak to people. But thanks to this job I have new skills, get out and have new friends. It has more than saved me and my career.”
But it’s not gone unnoticed by other businesses how good Boxpark’s hospitality teams are. Now Wade’s post-Covid challenge, he says, is “about retaining trained staff and getting a fair playing field for business rates”.
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