With World Cup Fever taking over earlier in the summer, my two mini mumblers got quite into football.
I’m not necessarily the football type, but my 4 year old clearly loves it and has been asking to go to a game. Born in Doncaster and having lived in Doncaster most of my life, I can’t believe that I have never been to watch a Doncaster Rovers match.
I remember when the Doncaster Rovers ground was squeezed behind ASDA off the main road – it wasn’t particularly inviting when I was a child or young adult. However now, the Keepmoat Stadium – which has unbelievably been open for over 10 years – is a clean, modern stadium, with loads of parking. I’m not quite sure what has put me off before – it certainly hasn’t necessarily been top of my things to do in Doncaster list.
Anyhow, I learned that August 25th’s match against Portsmouth also featured a family fun day! Doncaster Rovers apparently do these quite often and the promise of face painting hooked my hesitant 6 year old daughter in.
We actually got pretty excited! The tickets arrived, along with a link to a family guide which told us to get to the stadium at 1.30pm (an hour and a half before kick off) and enjoy the activities in the Family Zone – who knew they had a family zone?
We parked in the car park at the stadium (cost £5, but was easy to find and empty at the time we arrived – I would pay £5 to go shopping at the Frenchgate, so thought it was reasonable).
The Family Zone, occupies a large section of the East Stand concourse, which has been transformed into a colourful and exciting family activity area packed with fun features.
As we approached the turnstiles to go inside, we immediately saw some Go-Karts. I was a bit hesitant at first, as the kids stood in line, wondering how much extra this was going to cost. It was actually free! Lovely surprise and added extra value to our day. Littlest mini mumbler lasted around two minutes in the cart as it was a bit fast for him, however our 6 year old zoomed around for ages and loved the little obstacles that they put out for her to drive around. They were very excited to receive a medal and after speaking to Robin the Go-Kart man, I’ve added his details to our kids party providers page as I thought it was great!
Once we had done enough driving, we entered the family zone. I’d expected to be jostled around, however the family zone was quite chilled. We immediately saw the face painting. Most of the designs on the day were football/Doncaster Rovers related, which my eldest jumped on, however the lady was very accommodating for littlest mumbler and we ended up with a Spiderman for the day.
We had been looking forward to meeting Donny Dog and we weren’t disappointed! Lots of cuddles and high fives to go around from Donny which the kids loved. We ventured in to his kennel, which had a row of games consoles down one side, with children chilling out on bean bags playing football computer games. My children were amused by the art on the wall, particularly measuring their height against the players. There was the opportunity to shoot some goals, plus Mr Mumbler noted the availability of Pukka Pies for half time.
All this before we even got to the football…things were going well.
I have to say that there is something thrilling about walking in to a stadium, whether you are a keen football fan or not. There is definitely a buzz. We found our seats amongst other families and the atmosphere was great. The football started and I saw my daughter, who had not really been that bothered about going, clench her fists watching the ball go down the ‘wrong end’. It definitely grips you watching it in the moment.
The highlight of the day for my kids was Donny Dog coming up to see them in the stand to give them a mini Donny Dog! Apparently this is something that he does for all First Fans – he was a big hit and our Donny miniatures have had a lot of attention since.
I’m not the best football commentator, but to summarise the match it ended 0-0, there was a bit of a commotion towards the end of the match when the Doncaster Rovers goal keeper was sent off (that’s not good, right?) and James Coppinger was playing. He must be pretty good as we were given a testimonial match programme all about him. My daughter was very impressed and was looking out for number 26 shirt all the way through.
We were in the stadium for about 3 hours all in all and enjoyed our whole experience. I have to say that we would go again!
Get there early – this avoided our children getting overwhelmed by huge volumes of people and you can take advantage of the activities.
The Family Zone is round the back of the stadium – we had to walk all the way around (it’s actually quite accessible from the Lake)
If you’re parking, it’s worth parking at the stadium (£5 but you literally have to walk a couple of minutes)
Pre-order your food for half time (with Donny’s Deli, Donny himself will deliver it to you so that you don’t have to queue!)
Mention that it is your first time at the football, so that you get a visit from Donny and a cuddly toy for your child. There were some ‘Family Liaison’ Stewards in the Family Zone, so look out for them. I think that they also do special things for birthdays, so worth a mention to make it an extra memorable day.