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2009 Feature: Six Steps to Playground Success
By: Lynn Pinoniemi

In an effort to help churches get their playground projects off to a strong start, here are the key steps that have led many communities to success.
Step One – Form a Committee
A successful playground project at your church will need the support of everyone, including the congregation, children, and church administrators. The best way to ensure that you will get the help and input you need is to form a committee that represents your church. This will give you a broad base of support and the expertise you will need when promoting, funding, designing, and constructing your playground.

Who should be on the committee? The ideal size is between four and eight people. For church projects, there should be a balance of parent volunteers and church staff. If you have an on-site daycare center that will use the playground, be sure to get them involved, too. 

In addition, the individuals who will maintain the playground should also have a voice in how it is designed and installed. The structure of your playground committee will change as the needs of the project evolve. People involved in fundraising will be very busy during the early stages. Conversely, those involved in construction management may not become heavily active until the project nears installation. Above all, the project will require a strong leader to guide it from start to finish.
Step Two – Interview and Select a Playground Company
Your committee should interview and select a playground company very early in the process. Many groups feel they cannot begin contacting playground companies until a good portion of the money is raised, and that is not true. In fact, fundraising is very difficult without playground designs and budgets to show your supporters. So, make your selection early in the process.

Collect catalogs from several companies and select one or two representatives to meet with. Allow each company at least one hour to present their philosophy and products to you. You can then make an informed decision based on their experience, product quality, and references. These references should play a key role in your selection because past success is a great predictor of the future.

Step Three – The Power of a Plan
How should the playground design process begin? Some groups scour the catalog and ask the playground company to come up with a design that includes all the items on their "wish list."  However, this will not result in a good design.

Creating a great playground requires knowledge of your site, your needs, your budget, and your children. Visit several playgrounds built by the manufacturer you have selected; jump on them, play on them, and see how individual play events function. Take kids along, too. Their energy and insight will always help you design a better playground, and, when the time comes for fundraising, their enthusiasm and sense of ownership will be invaluable.

Provided with your informed perspectives, your playground supplier can now design a great playground that will encourage continuous play, include properly integrated components, and be fun, challenging, and safe.

Step Four – Putting the Plan to Work
Getting the plan on paper will invigorate your committee and give you a solid budget with which to work. This plan will also include drawings that you can use to get approvals from the city and ensure that your playground will be compliant with all safety codes and any Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) requirements. Best of all, you will now be able to put the 3D playground drawings in your fundraising brochure and on posters that say, "This is what your contributions will help us build!"

When it comes to fundraising, more help is definitely better. Employ all of the children and their parents in your fundraising activity. Most playground equipment companies know what works well in raising funds and what doesn't. Ask your representatives for tips, program ideas, and beautiful pictures and graphics. After that, it's really up to the committee to make fundraising a success.

Step Five – Pre-Construction Planning
Once you have nearly completed your fundraising efforts, bring your representative back in to discuss the construction process so you can decide which installation method is right for your church: contract installation by professional installers or a community build.

There are pros and cons to each method, but one fact is very important to remember—professional installation will typically require 20 to 30 percent of your total budget. Thus, if you have many enthusiastic adult volunteers with time and expertise to lend to your project, a community build might be the way to go.

Step Six – Caring for Your Playground
The work is not completely finished once your playground has been installed. At least one person will need to maintain the playground's safety surfacing and conduct periodic walkthroughs to check for damaged components and pick up any debris that has found its way onto the site.

For more information about Landscape Structures playground equipment, please visit playlsi.com or call 888.4FUNLSI.

The Importance of a Qualified Playground Contractor

Getting children to play outside and enjoy the fresh air is easy if you set up a nice playground area. To avoid serious injuries and ensure a safe place to play for your children, make sure you are using a Qualified Playground Contractor to install your equipment.

The NPCAI Qualified Playground Contractor was created as a way for professional playground contractors to distinguish themselves as licensed, certified, and insured, to specifically build playgrounds.

In today's market, it is important to select a Qualified Playground Contractor for your next playground project. The following information and checklist was compiled from several resources within the playground industry to provide you a simple, step-by-step process for selecting a qualified playground contractor.

It is the responsibility of the designer, manufacturer, owner, and playground contractor to provide a playground that a child can play on without risk. Choosing your playground contractor is as important as choosing the equipment itself.

Documents to secure include:

* A copy of their state or local licensing
* A copy of their NPSI certification
* A copy of their NPCAI membership
* A copy of the NPCAI Qualified Contractor Certificate
* A copy of liability insurance, property, automotive and workman's compensation
* A list of current references

Ask the playground contractor if they will they secure your area during construction. Do they have a final inspection program? Request that you be listed as an additional insured.

Doing the following will save you time and money:

* Review the contract before the installation begins.
* Go over your expectations and check to make sure you and your playground contractor both agree.
* Become familiar with the project manager and keep in contact with him during the project.

Upon completion of your playground installation, ask for the following:

* A walk-through of your playground site
* Warranty on the playground installation
* Pictures of the playground
* Final inspection report
* A copy of the installation manual from the manufacturer for your playground equipment
* A manufacturer maintenance kit, if applicable

Additional tips include:

* Secure a copy of the CPSC Handbook for Public Playground Safety, www.cpsc.gov
* Develop a Playground Maintenance Plan and check your equipment weekly or hire a Qualified Playground Contractor to do so.
* Have an Annual Safety Audits done by a Certified Playground Safety Inspector.
* Understand ASTM Standards, www.astm.org.

Qualified Playground Contractor credentials are all the assurance a playground purchaser and owner needs in order to make an educated decision about who to hire to build their playground facility.

To view the entire qualified contractors listing, visit the NPCAI Web site at www.playground-contractors.org

Product Roundup

Founded in 2003, KORKAT's success is reflected in three primary commitments: to provide remarkable customer service, to be a reliable and accurate consultant on any playground endeavor you undertake, and to offer the highest safety standards in the industry. KORKAT offers a wide array energetic, inventive, and supportive play. From grading to setup and even future service of the equipment, KORKAT doesn't disappear after the sale. In short, it is a turnkey operation. Products include commercial and indoor playgrounds, shade structures, and surfacing.

SofTILE from Sof Surfaces
SofTILE is a highly durable safety surfacing system that locks in place, is vandal resistant, class A fire rated, and provides fall protection ratings that exceed national standards. SofTILE has been engineered with specific features designed to directly address issues associated with excessive maintenance, premature wear, and non-compliance with safety standards. The success of the SofTILE KrosLOCK brand has been rooted in its ability to offer lower total cost of ownership, while reducing liability concerns through strict performance benchmarks for impact attenuation.

Play Mart
Going Green? Play Mart is already there. As the leading manufacturer of Recycled Plastic Play Systems, Play Mart's products contain over 85% recycled plastic (by weight per structure). They offer you earth-friendly products that are virtually maintenance free. Color-throughout plastic supports will not fade and clean easily; graffiti removes instantly; vandal-resistant stainless steel hardware and stainless steel metal components will not corrode or rust. Their structural plastic, RSP, comes with a 100-year warranty. All structures meet or exceed current safety standards.

PlayDesigns by Playworld Systems
PlayDesigns by Playworld Systems is a line of playground equipment especially designed for infants and toddlers. This group of play offerings includes Explorers, FirstPlay Toddler, and Fun Centers and is produced for the preschoolers and early childhood children who are heading to the playground to develop cognitive, social, and motor skills for their first time. The company's strong sense of family translates through its unsurpassed products, personalized service, and strong commitment to its customers.

Kidstuff Playsystems
Kidstuff Playsystems has been a leading manufacturer of commercial, heavy-duty playground equipment since 1982, helping to make kids happy and fit.  Equipment is IPEMA-certified to the rigorous ASTM standard.  In addition, Kidstuff equipment carries the prestigious international ISO 9001-2000 quality certification. All equipment is made in the USA. Kidstuff will do a complete turnkey project with you, including design layouts for your approval, installation, and safety surfacing.

Play It Safe Enterprises
Play It Safe Enterprises Inc. represents many fine product lines in the park and recreation industry. They offer complete site planning, play system design and sales, installation of equipment, and all the services required to complete a superior and safe environment. Their collective years of experience in the park and recreation industry along with their design abilities and certified install crews will provide the necessary components to create your successful project.

Zeager is a leading North American manufacturer offering a range of playground surfaces that meet ADA, ASTM, CPSC, and CSA standards. They have surfaces to suite a variety of priorities, including accessibility, affordability, green, and clean. Their surfaces are third-party certified and have been lab and field tested under a variety of climate conditions. Their sales team is second to none and regularly attends playground safety training to ensure customers receive the best service and support.

DuraPlay offers more than 20 years of experience in poured in place rubber surfacing.  Each surface is professionally installed using 70 percent recycled material and is available in an endless variety of color and design options. The DuraPlay Surfacing System is ADA and ASTM compliant, providing long-term and consistent fall protection for playgrounds that are maintenance free.

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