London has a reputation of being a somewhat staid, if affluent, working class city, the sort of town where you can raise a family in peace and quiet but where you always had to go somewhere else to get your quota of fun and excitement. These days, however, nothing could be further from the truth. Those leafy, breezy, quiet residential sections still exist, of course, but the fun quotient has been cranked up to eleven in recent years. One of the best examples of this is London’s newest all-in-one excitement attraction, The Factory.
The location and the story of how the Factory came into being are emblematic of the story of London itself. The Factory – which bills itself as “Canada’s Biggest Indoor Adventure Park” – occupies the site of the old Kellogs factory on Dundas Street. The Kellogs factory, which first opened in 1907, was one of many examples of London’s place in the 20th Century as a manufacturing powerhouse. However, with the decline of manufacturing as the central factor of the economy in Southwestern Ontario, the Kellogs plant was finally closed for good in 2014, leaving the city with 23 acres of property encompassing 30 separate buildings.
The rebranding of the city as a friendly environment for both established and start-up technology companies has led entrepreneurs to try to retool the old manufacturing skeleton of the city for a new age. The Factory is exactly this: taking the bones of the old Kellogs factory and using its natural advantages to create something new and wonderful. With the old factory’s 35 metre ceilings, it was no great leap to imagine filling the place with more adventure than any abandoned facility really has the right to hold. The key here has been to attract Millennials moving to London, which means not only competing with the other attractions that London has put on offer lately, but also competing with the ease of entertainment option on offer at home, via Netflix, Amazon, and the internet as a whole. Thus, local entrepreneurs must offer a cut above the usual in order to attract that young clientele, something that The Factory offers in a significant way.
Thus, The Factory is a symbol of how London continues to change as we march forward into the 21st Century. Rather than let outmoded industrial landscapes rot, an unfortunate feature of many post-manufacturing North American cities, London innovators have chosen to repurpose them into something new, exciting, and modern. The sheer amount of entertainment value on offer at The Factory is impressive as well; like East Park, The Factory has proven adept at diversifying the possibilities for adventure that they have on hand. Whether you’re looking for an all-out maximum-sweat athletic competition or something a little less cardio-intensive, you’re probably going to find what you’re looking for in London’s historic Old East Village.
The central feature of The Factory in terms of getting the heart pumping is the ropes course. At 75 feet high and with 145 feet of ziplines, the rope course at The Factory is the highest and largest indoor rope zone in North America. The ropes in this course are spread between two towers standing on opposite ends of the old factory floor; between them, there are 88 separate obstacles that range from the fairly easy to manoeuvre to the nearly impossible to pass. Once you make it through these obstacles, the tops of the towers contain the zip lines, strung above the fray. You can ride back and forth on the ziplines to your heart’s content and believe me, once you get the taste of it that rush through the air with the adventure spreading out below you is an experience you’re going to want to take in again and again
If you somehow get your fill of zipping through the air like a special forces operative, this section of The Factory also features an attraction of the death-defying daredevil in all of us: free-fall jumping. For beginner jumpers, or for people who think of heights in the same category that they think of spiders or the electric bill, there is a 39-foot jump that will provide all of the thrills with none of the memories flashing before your eyes. Beyond that, though, there is a 65-foot free-fall jump the staff call the Shift-Ender, which isn’t perhaps quite as ominous as it sounds. There is, in fact, something incredibly freeing about standing at the top, looking down into the void, and forcing your body to just jump. There’s no need to worry about global affairs, or the changing workplace, or that nagging voice that keeps you awake at night telling you to stop drying your work socks on the radiator: there is just you, the restraints, and all of that delicious empty air beneath you.
Speaking of the staff, they really are a cut above at The Factory. You never feel rushed as you’re getting set up, or as though you’re just another numbered customer that they have to go through to get to their coffee break. It’s incredibly obvious that for them, this is not just a job but a passion; they’re patient, kind, and will thoroughly explain the answers to any questions you might have until you’re both comfortable and satisfied. They’re professionals in terms of customer service, sure, but it’s also apparent that they’re professionals in terms of the offered attractions as well. They don’t just work there, they play there – there’s a reason they call that gorgeous 65-foot drop the Shift-Ender, after all.
It’s clear that this was part of the founding vision of The Factory. General Manager and part owner Dan Cassidy, in a press announcement to the CBC, mentioned an attraction called the Battle Beam, which would involve those giant staffs resembling Q-tips that were first popularized on American Gladiators. Cassidy’s joke was that all staff debates would be solved on the Battle Beam, but there’s a sense that it’s only a half-joke, since the staff is deeply embedded into the adventure. They know everything that’s going on: the rope course alone requires them to go through over 40 hours of training so that they can safely and easily ensure that you’re having the maximum amount of thrill-seeking adventure per visit. Health and safety is quite naturally a big concern, and to this end The Factory has partnered with Waterloo-based Med-On-Site to provide the perfect balance between highly trained medical staff and flexible coverage. The safety system also involves a state-of-the-art RFID system that tracks guests through the facility, ensuring that no one wanders into areas that would be unsafe to venture into and also ensures that even your rambunctious thrill-jockey children won’t get lost or hurt.
Of course, The Factory offers more than just the rope course for working up a good sweat. Another key attraction is the massive trampoline park – here is where the Battle Beam that Dan Cassidy mentioned resides, and a whole lot more. There are 20,000 feet of trampolines on The Factory floor, and if that doesn’t solve your need to grab serious air then nothing will. It’s not just trampolines, either, but the way The Factory has put together these trampoline attractions. Have you ever wanted to slam it just like LeBron, if not his teammates? The basketball slam attraction will have you shooting your way to NBA stardom in no time. Do you want your jump time to encompass a kaleidoscope of flashing lights, sounds, and bouncing? The interactive lights attraction will fulfill those artistic pop-star visions that are dancing in your head. Ever wish that Vince Vaughan and Ben Stiller made an all-out sequel to Dodgeball? The glow dodgeball attraction has your back: it’s dodgeball, on trampolines, that’s also glow in the dark. If that doesn’t get your athletic competition saliva flowing then maybe the Meltdown will catch your attention. If you’ve ever seen an episode of Wipeout you’ll know exactly what the Meltdown is all about; even if you haven’t, it won’t take you long to catch on. It’s a block with two long arms sticking out of it; the block rotates at multiple different speeds and it’s your job to jump over the arms and ensure that you remain upright. It’s one of those things that sounds simple but when you’re doing it on a trampoline it becomes a lot more challenging. It’s also one of the most fun challenges to take on as a group: start with a collection of people and watch them dwindle as they fall victim to the spinning arms.
The Ultimate Warrior Course
If the trampoline park isn’t hands-on enough for you, The Factory also features a full Warrior Course so you can live out all of your American Ninja Warrior fantasies. The Ultimate Warrior course consists of 38 stationary obstacles, including rings, ladders, nets, swinging steps, cheeseboards, log rolls, sweeper arms, and spinning discs. For those who have a need to compete to the edge of their endurance, the Ultimate Warrior course is the perfect test, and it even features the ability to run the course against friends. If you want to dial it down a little bit from that height, there is also the Adrenalator, which tests the racer’s endurance as they try to outrun a huge treadmill. For those looking to capture some of that movie star glamour, there is also the Stunt Airbag, which let’s you free-fall 15 feet onto a gigantic inflated airbag. These options bring some diversity to the physical activities on offer at The Factory while still keeping the heart-rate pumping.
The adventure isn’t the sole province of adults, either. The Factory features a 5,500 square foot play area for children under 12. The playground features an intricate series of tubes as well as a miniature rock-climbing wall for the budding daredevil ninjas out there. A separate area is available for infants and toddlers, with small slides and padded play areas to stimulate interaction in the youngest. It’s not just standard physical play either; there are games available on interactive touch screens and 10 different scavenger hunts to keep things continually interesting.
The Factory isn’t just a playground for those who like to defy gravity and move to the limit. It’s also the home to cutting-edge entertainment that combines media and technology with human interaction. The arcade section boasts over 100 games, putting it in direct competition with London’s other state-of-the-art arcade, The Rec Room. In addition to the games, however, the arcade section also features a Lazer Maze where you can live out your spy infiltration fantasies, and another trampoline game where you bounce and try to smash as many ninja stars as you can in a 90 second time frame.
Not content with merely tacking on an arcade like so many other places do, The Factory has gone the extra mile to ensure that the entertainment they offer is cutting-edge. To this end, The Factory has implemented an entire Virtual Reality section, featuring top-of-the-line HTC Vive VR headsets that provide a full range of motion for the ultimate immersion into whatever program you’re in – and there are a lot. The Factory’s VR section has over 700 different VR “experiences”, ranging from action-packed shooting sequences to team-based athletics to more refined, artistic experiences. The VR room rotates through 50 or so per day, so you’d have to go fairly often to get the same set of experiences twice. Plus, with 24 pods to park yourself in it’s not just a solo experience – this is something the entire workplace can get together and enjoy.
At the risk of sounding like Billy Mays, that’s not all! The Factory also offers a series of interactive escape rooms powered by London’s premier escape room company, Mystery Escape Rooms. If you’re a beginner to the escape room experience, MER’s facility at The Factory features a 25-minute mini-escape room to get you acclimatized to how it all works. If you’re already in the know, then there are 7 different experiences for you to take in, depending on your group size, comfort level, and time constraints.
The Bottom Line
Indoor adventure isn’t something that you need to go far from home to seek out; you can push your endurance to the limit right at home in London, Ontario. Whether you’re looking to work out to the extreme or get in some good competitive group fun, The Factory has exactly what you’re looking for. This new growth in London’s historic Old East Village proves London’s status as a city of forward-thinking entrepreneurs looking to match the city’s gorgeous vistas with the best in entertainment for people of all ages and skill levels.