OpenPlay is a web and mobile platform designed to connect sports facilities to the public. It takes away the hassle of finding and booking sports facilities and activities with a focus on parks, open spaces and schools. Examples include tennis courts, football pitches, multi-use games areas and sports halls.
It was born out of frustration whilst trying to source football pitches for an U15 team in South London. I found the experience to be a complete nightmare with endless fruitless phone calls and a lack of transparency over pricing and condition of facilities on offer. I met my business partner who also shared the same frustrations and we launched the original OpenPlay platform in February 2013. We lived off cereal and a startup loan for over a year until we heard about the Geovation programme.
From running OpenPlay, we began to realise that we could also use the platform to help tackle the physical inactivity crisis which is sweeping the nation. Parks and schools are massive areas for physical activities, yet little is known about what goes on within them and how to get involved. Most local authorities we spoke to have little understanding of who are using their parks and open spaces. For consumers the wider problem is where do you go to get active?
This is where Geovation proved ideal timing and we were delighted to attend the March 2014 Geovation weekend as a finalist. The idea we pitched was a virtual noticeboard for parks and open spaces designed to show activities taking place within them. The key difference is that we would also have online booking. This would break down barriers for the public to get involved with activities (no more phone calls/emails!) whilst solving organisational and marketing issues for activity providers too. It would be a win-win for everyone.
To our surprise we were selected as one of the four Geovation winners after an exhausting (but fun) weekend at Ordnance Survey HQ. That’s really where the hard work started.
Since winning, we’ve focused on three main things; building a new website with physical activity booking, creating a mobile app and raising the profile of OpenPlay. We have already successfully piloted our activity booking tool amongst a handful of users earlier this summer. We also launched our brand new site on the 18th August and are currently tweaking it and integrating OS mapping.
Since winning Geovation our traffic has increased from 20,000 visitors/month to over 50,000. We’ve increased the number of sports venues to over 50, with over 350 bookable pitches and courts including 44 tennis courts across the Borough of Brent. We have also launched a player finder which connects people together to help find tennis partners, football players and five other initial sports.
Having launched the new platform we’re working to integrate the full power of Ordnance Survey mapping and data, particularly for activities, plotting them within parks and open spaces. Watch this space!