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Inside Out offers indoor play for New Richmond area families

Darla Fehlen stood behind the counter in the 7,000 square foot space prepping drinks and baking chocolate chip cookies. Kids of all sizes scaled the rock wall and slid down the slides while their parents had the option to sit and chat at the tables or utilize the wireless Internet.

A new restaurant? Internet café? Children's gymnasium?

The answer is: yes.

Inside Out, located at 240 Wisconsin Drive in the industrial park south of WITC, is an indoor playground with a concessions stand and wireless Internet access. It opened its doors for business on Saturday, Oct. 25.

The layout is divided into several zones. Upon first walking in, customers are greeted by a huge wooden playstructure, complete with plastic slides, rock wall, swing, binoculars and monkey bars. It easily dominates one-third of the facility.

Beside it is the concessions stand and eating area. The menu caters to the adult and child with offerings like pizza, hot dogs, nachos, salad, soup and sandwiches.

The other side of the facility is the "village" - a row of pretend rooms dedicated to "u-build-it construction," "pets, purses and playthings," a café, a post office and even a little "park" complete with faux grass and a bench.

There is also space in the front of the facility with books, board games and a sofa for quieter play. A separate party room is available for birthday rental.

"We have four themes," Fehlen said. "Pirate, beach, sport and princess."

Fehlen has lived in New Richmond since 1985. She said she came up with this idea after working for a trucking company for five years.

"I always wanted to own my own business," Fehlen, mother of three, said. "I had different ideas; the closest indoor playground is in Hudson, so I decided to go for it."

Although she admits to still working out some of the finer points of the business, such as establishing a punch card system for multiple visits, she already has plans to expand her services.

"In the summer, I hope to have a story day, craft day, dress up day, fitness day, etc.," Fehlen said. "And I have plans to add more playground equipment down the road."

Inside Out is open Mon/Tues/Wed 9-4 p.m., Thursday 9-7 p.m., Fri/Sat 9-8 p.m. and Sunday noon-6 p.m. Children 1 and over are $6; under 1 are free. There is no cost for adults but they must remain with the children in the facility.

Deborah and Owen Walker, along with their son Devin, were among the first customers to visit the playground.

"I love it," Deborah said, as she watched Devin, 3, race around the play equipment. "The only other indoor playground we've been to has been Mall of America. I'm sure we'll be here at least twice a week."