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Goodbye Playtime Palace, Hello Cranberry Kids Castle

Plans are in the works to raze the wooden play structure at Cranberry Community Park and replace it with a new, innovative play area.

When Playtime Palace opened in Cranberry's Community Park more than 20 years ago, it was known as the region’s premier playground destination.

“It was our signature community asset,” said Cranberry Supervisor Chairman Bruce Mazzoni.

Cranberry CUP founder Cathy Cortazzo recalled taking her twins, now age 25, from their home in Economy to Cranberry to play on the community-built palace.

“I loved taking them there,” she said.

But time and usage have taken its toll on the wooden structure. With maintenance issues that include decaying support posts, splitting wood, sharp edges and insect infestation, the structure has earned the nickname “Splinter Palace” from some users. 

The castle-like playground also does not meeting current safety standards, according to township officials. Some noted issues are a steel slide that heats up on sunny days and hiding places that offer little visibility to supervising adults.

“It has become a public safety issue,” said John Trant, Cranberry’s chief strategy officer.

Which is why a replacement is on the way.

At Thursday’s Cranberry Board of Supervisors meeting, plans were unveiled for “Kids Castle, a Cranberry Uniting Playground,” at Cranberry Community Park.

Slated to be located behind the current Playtime Palace, Kids Castle will be a larger, safer facility offering imaginative play for children, according to Cranberry officials.

The facility’s design will be steered by a playground committee, made up of township residents, and will play off the community's growth over the last few decades. The themes are Cranberry past, present and future.

Recalling the township’s history as a farming community, the “Yesterday” section will be nature-oriented and consist of swings with a “log” post, rolling hills made out of turf and spring-mounted riding animals, including sheep.

The “Today” area will have a town square and clock tower, similar to the one at the Cranberry Township Municipal Center, and the proposed “Future” holds forward-thinking play structures like a mobius climber and a bubble rider.

“What’s really neat about it is it accommodates kids of all ages from six months to 12 years,” Trant said. “It also accommodates everybody in terms of physical ability.”

Outside the themed area, there will be picnic spaces with tables, benches and play lawns decorated with stepping stones to honor those who donated to the playground.

There also are plans for a new restroom next to the Kids Castle so children won't have to cross a park road to get to the park's current bathrooms.

Materials from Playground Palace also will be repurposed in some way into the new structure, Mazzoni said.

The Cost

The Cranberry Township Community Chest, an organization that partners with local nonprofits to raise funds for projects that benefit the community, has named Kids Castle its 2013 Project of the Year. The organization also has pledged $50,000 in funding for the playground.

The nonprofit Cranberry CUP also has agreed to donate $35,000 per year for the next five years, for a total of $175,000, to the project. In addition, Cranberry supervisors approved $82,500 in funding to be used towards the playground’s design.

But more is needed.

Mazzoni, who also is treasurer of CTCC and serves on the playground committee, estimated the community needs to raise an additional $250,000 to complete the project.

Help wanted

The playground committee is hoping to recruit 100 "Playground Fundraising Coordinators" to collect donations from the neighborhoods where they live and from the companies they work for.

The fundraising program will offer an assortment of incentives and donor recognitions to acknowledge gifts ranging from $25 up to $50,000 or more.

Details of the design and information on fundraising are posted on the CTCC website at www.CTCChest.org.

Countdown to Kids Castle

Fundraising for the playground, and the recruiting of volunteers, will take place in January through March. In April, Playtime Palace closes for good. A 5K race also will be held April 20 at Community Park to commemorate the playground.

Mazzoni said the hope is to have all the money raised for the project by May 1. The playground is expected to be constructed and ready for dedication by Sept. 29.

What do you think about plans for the Kids Castle? Do you have a fond memory of Playtime Palace you’d like to share? Leave your thoughts in the comment section below.

Mr. Right December 14, 2012 at 02:36 PM
It seems that for a quarter of a million dollars that the current structure could be repaired and a lot of money saved. It is not as bad as voiced in this article. But you can't fight city hall. I see that they are bent on making an architectural thing that will look good to the yuppies, but will be ho-hum with the kids. If the powers that be must destroy it, for a successful replacement, I suggest looking at Portland, Oregon's rose garden park play area for an example of successful appealing for both the yuppies and the kids.
Mr. Right December 14, 2012 at 02:50 PM
Additionally, regarding the timing for this project, really? Remove the play structure in the spring and build the new one through the WHOLE SUMMER? Remove the play structure from use during the time it could be used and build another just in time to be played with during the next winter? Are you kidding me? How does it take five months to erect? A large electricity generating plant can be built in less than two years, and it takes one fourth the time that it takes to build an entire power plant just to bend a few small pipes and concrete them into the ground for some kids? Backyard play structures about 1/5 the size can be installed in a weekend. So maybe 10 days construction is a benchmark, and say a month for incomptence to erect a play structure? Were these decisions made during the city Christmas party? Really?
I love my kids December 14, 2012 at 02:56 PM
While it all sounds exciting, it's disappointing to hear you'll be closing it just as it starts to get warm and reopening right before it gets cold. My kids will be very sad to not have that park all summer long.
A.N.L. December 14, 2012 at 03:15 PM
I don't quite understand where the money is going. It barely looks like their in anything there for the kids. That new "castle" merely looks like a slide. I don't think it compares to Playtime Palace for the kids at all. With the amount of money being used on this project I would expect the park to be the premiere playing area yet again. Judging by the map it will look pretty, but that's about it.
Cheryl Clukey December 14, 2012 at 07:17 PM
Sorry to hear about this change.....our grandchildren love this place and call it castle park. Now it will look like all the others. Signed Disappointed. :(
E Mcclymonds December 14, 2012 at 07:55 PM
Here are some positive aspects: the playground will have a new location and bathroom - away from the main and room and will not require anyone to cross the road to reach the playground. The new playground will be double in size and will have a large grass area for children to run and a stage area with musical elements for children to have a space for creative and artistic play. The playground has excellent ADA and stroller access to all areas. The futuristic area has playground equipment that NO other playground in the area currently has. The Present section will have a smaller version of the Playtime Palace - although not exactly alike. We will be able to re-purpose 70% (at least) of the wood from the existing structure. And, although the timing is not ideal - that is the only time to dig the huge and deep holes need to secure and support the playground pieces. Spring and Fall are too wet and muddy and the ground freezes in the winter. There are playground at N. Boundary Park, Seven Fields and Knob Hill that can fill the playground needs for this summer. There is additional playground information available if you should like to call Cranberry Township....
Deb Ramage December 15, 2012 at 07:16 PM
Ahhhh, I hate to see it torn down. Our business Rambo Welding & my teen-age kids all helped build the old one in 1991. Can a plaque & donors be kept from the original Palace?
E Mcclymonds December 16, 2012 at 09:21 PM
I am not sure about the old plaques and donor blocks but YOU CAN help build the new one or contribute financially to the new one and receive a new donor plaque?!!
Riley Kraus April 12, 2013 at 03:26 AM
I think tearing down the current Castle is ridiculous. That has been there for a long time and there are plenty of wooden structures that are well maintained and easily repaired all over PA. I would really really hate to see such a wonderful play place for children get torn down and made to look plastic and exactly like the North Park structure. I know a lot of people that are really upset...

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