By Cristen Shepherd
Faced with a playground project for a school, church, or childcare center? It is very normal to jump in and start a wish list, and then move right into shopping mode. We get it, commercial equipment is cool stuff to look at and dream about!
Here’s a word of caution at this point of your research. Take your time to understand the cost behind commercially produced equipment. There are very good reasons why it is much more expensive than residential items intended for your kids and backyard.
Why is commercial playground equipment more expensive than residential items? It helps to understand that commercial equipment must meet rigorous safety and government standards, serve hundreds of kids playing on it daily for years (or several decades, in most instances), and ultimately be safe during the entire life of the equipment.
Comparing residential equipment to commercial equipment is “apples to oranges.” It’s not the same thing. However, there are ways to greatly reduce your overall costs of these projects and avoid sticker-shock in the end.
Look for Sales
Equipment distributors have “specials” or sales or temporary discounts, which reduce equipment cost considerably. Sales can be the result of too much inventory, or even special pricing from a manufacturer to distributors.
Discounts can vary from 5 percent to as high as 50 percent. Also look for the occasionally freebie item when you buy certain items. Always ask your dealer/distributor if they have any sales that are not on their website.
Use the Same Playground Equipment Distributor
It’s tempting to buy from more than one playground equipment distributor. Keep in mind, though, that this can cost more money than using a single company.
Why? When equipment ships from multiple companies, you can end up paying more for shipping fees and added freight.
Also, watch for differences in delivery dates between manufacturers, which could result in possible installation delays by weeks or even months.
Get Installation Help from Your Community
Getting volunteer labor from your community is an excellent way to save on installation costs, which often takes a huge chunk out of any budget. In addition to our full, turnkey installation services, our company offers the option of using one of our four CPSI Certified staff members for a supervised install with your volunteer crew.
This installation alternative works well if you get labor from a good crew of volunteers and then pair them along with our CPSI supervisors to save and stretch your budget.
Find Package Deals
Buying equipment in a package or “bundle” can save thousands on any playground budget. For example, all of our playground packages include a playground structure, swings, spring rider, border timbers and an ADA ramp.
We always try to offer amazing “saving money” opportunities with our playground packages. Since 2016, we have added more than 25 different playground packages starting as low as $8,000, which will hopefully fit your playground site and budget.
Make Site Amenities “Phase Two” Purchases
Of course, you’ll need a few basic amenities to give parents, teachers and other caregivers a place to sit down and relax while children play.
However, equipment such as benches, trash receptacles, tables, shades and even bike racks can increase your budget. A good approach is to think about making these purchases later, or phasing in the cost into the next fiscal year.
Take Advantage of Fundraising
In many cases, the budget for commercial playgrounds comes from capital funds, meaning that there’s a limit on what you can spend because a timeframe is involved in meeting these objectives.
One the best ways to stretch your playground budget is by taking advantage of fundraising. Some of the most common types of fundraising ideas include raffles, rebates, website affiliate programs, golf tournaments, aquatic races, book fairs, community garage sales, auctions and other events.
We can even help by providing poster type images to show your community during your fundraising events or efforts.
Equipment Lease/Purchase = Immediate Equipment
Commercial playground equipment is costly. If fundraising efforts look like they could take months or years to happen, seriously consider lease/purchase financing equipment. We work closely with a financing company to secure low rates and short-term financing.
A lease-purchase on equipment allows almost immediate purchase, cash-flow savings, and, in many instances, keeps you from the headache of months of fundraising efforts!
Cristen Shepherd is the marketing coordinator for Noah’s Park and Playgrounds, www.noahsplay.com.