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 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.
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.