Mansfield Town’s award-winning family room was initially built to attract the next generation of supporters to One Call Stadium - and while it still continues to do so with great success - for some, the family area means so much more.
One section of the club’s family room that has much enhanced a matchday for certain families is the sensory area, a zone dedicated to assisting those who are prone to experiencing a sensory overload.
Outstanding facilities such as the sensory area helped the club towards winning the Sky Bet League Two Family Club of the Year award in 2019, with the Stags aiming to win the award for a second consecutive season in 2020.
For some families, a matchday would not be possible without the sensory area, which was officially opened in December 2018 thanks to a generous £6,000 donation from the Stags Supporters’ Association.
“Originally, the family room was built to bring new families in to watch the match at One Call Stadium,” explains supporters’ liaison officer Danielle Hett.
“We now have a sensory area, which has become a really important part of the family room, because it means we can have whole families enjoying the game together, whereas they couldn’t before.
“The sensory area is designed to help those who are prone to sensory overloads. If it’s too noisy or the atmosphere makes it too much for someone to cope, the sensory area can help.
“It has the fibre optics, the bubble tube and infinity light, which all take them away from the sound outside.”
One family which has hugely benefitted from the sensory area is the Woollands’ – with brothers Zakk (below) and Corey, who both have autism, now both able to attend matches at One Call Stadium.
Mum, Stephanie, says that Corey’s developing passion for the game led to the family making contact with the club in 2019.
“It all started when Corey became interested in football about a year ago,” she begins. “I emailed Mansfield Town and it was Danielle Hett, the supporters’ liaison officer, who picked up my email and said ‘come on down and have a look what we have.’
“We thought ‘is it worth coming or not?’ But from the first time we came, Danielle and the staff made us feel so welcome – everybody went out of their way to make it as easy as possible for Corey to come and be part of the Mansfield community.
“Corey can’t wait to come and Zakk loves his Saturday morning sanctuary in the sensory room! They’re always in a good mood by the time they get home and it really helps them to get out and about in the community.”
Because of Zakk’s condition, attending an event with as many people and as much commotion as a Saturday matchday at One Call Stadium would typically be completely out of the question for the Woollands.
However, because of the exceptional family facilities on offer, Zakk, and many others, are now able to attend Mansfield’s home matches.
“The family room is absolutely essential, especially to families like us, who have two children with severe disabilities,” adds Stephanie.
“Zakk, my 14-year-old, uses the sensory room every match, as he has a severe sensory processing disorder because of his autism.
“Zakk cannot be out in the crowd because the noise makes him distressed and disoriented. If this facility [family room] wasn’t here, we couldn’t come to matches at all.”
Alongside the sensory area, the family room – which is located underneath the Quarry Lane Stand - continues to focus on bringing families together and forging friendships within the local community.
“Seeing the children come back makes me proud,” says supporters’ liaison officer Danielle. “Seeing the same kids season after season and watching them grow, seeing them fall in love with the Stags is a great feeling.”
“I think the family room has become a community hub for all ages and backgrounds. We enjoy new friendships and getting families all together – it’s a great place to be.
“We have a diverse range of families coming in and people coming to watch the football that might not have considered it before.”
The family room also adopts a technology-free approach, allowing families to enjoy quality time with one another before watching the big match at One Call Stadium.
Despite the absence of technology in an ever-changing, high-tech world, the family area still manages to keep families engaged by using a range of activities on a matchday.
“We are completely technology-free,” adds Danielle. “We like families to come together and play – we want children to play with their families and other people inside the family room, we don’t want to see people on phones in their own isolation.
“We want the families to come together - we have seen families make friendships and they go off and do things outside of a matchday.
“They meet up before the family room opens in Sandy’s [Bar & Kitchen], so it does join families together.
“We try to make the day as action-packed as possible. Our club mascots hold a ‘Meet and Greet’ outside the club shop before the gates open for those with a family ticket at 1:30pm.
“We have some outdoor activities which usually involve something to do with sport, such as keepy-uppies. We then bring them in for things such as arts and crafts, or table tennis and table football.
“There might also be a disco going on, and we’ll have our toddler area set up for our younger supporters. We really do pack it all in.”
The family room continues to entertain families and attract new supporters to One Call Stadium, but goes much further than just fun and games on a matchday.
Attending a football match may have seemed impossible for some, but thanks to the work of Danielle and her dedicated staff, families have been given a real sense of community within the family area at One Call Stadium.
“It’s our community. It’s our social life. It feels like family now,” says Stephanie. “We absolutely love it, the boys love it – we couldn’t ask for much better facilities than this
“If you have children with disabilities and you fear taking them outside for the reasons that we did, come down and try it, come down and be part of the community for yourself – you’ll have all your needs catered for and the staff are really understanding.
“Take the leap and you won’t regret it!”
The family area is open to those with a valid family ticket for home games at One Call Stadium. Family tickets cost just £18 and can be purchased in advance of or on a matchday.
Family tickets can be purchased by visiting our ticket office on Quarry Lane or by calling 01623 482 482 (option 1).