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Why Does it Cost SO Much to Build the Cranberry Kids Castle Playground?

The $500,000 Kids Castle Playground—How and why it costs this much.

Why does it cost SO MUCH to build a playground?

This is what people want to know and luckily for all of you out there, I have the answers! 

I was a part of the Cranberry Kids Castle playground planning committee. We started by first brainstorming all our wish list items for a fabulous playground. The list went on and on and we were really proud of ourselves. 

That is until the next week when we got the estimated cost—$1.2 million! What the HECK? How can some swings and slides cost THAT much?

I was angry and frustrated, and as people know, when I have feelings, you will hear about them. I think the focus group was a little scared!

But, I wanted to know exactly why everything cost so darn much. One word—SAFETY. These playgrounds are built to last over 20 years and are built to be safe and functional for that entire time. 

What do you own that is 20 years old that is used by hundreds of people week after week? Huh? Yeah, that would be nothing. I am lucky if a pair of pants lasts six months, less if they are for my rough-and-tumble kids. Steel and concrete are expensive, and when you have to change molds to build specialty pieces, it all adds up.

Commercial playgrounds use high-quality (i.e. expensive ) materials: reinforced triple coated steel and concrete structures with overlay materials to make it softer, but still strong. If we have learned anything from this year, Americans are willing to do whatever it takes to keep our children safe from harm. Although the cost of safe, functional and fun playground equipment is very high, it is worth every penny!

In addition, being the control freak that I am, I will fully admit that I called the playground companies myself and went through all the brochures behind the committees back. 

I thought for sure they were trying to pull something over on us. I designed an entire playground myself, and guess what?

Even with me trying to cut corners here and there, the cost of my playground was the same as the price of the playground designed by the committee—and mine wasn’t even as cool. 

Trust me people, I tried to make it cost less. I will also be fundraising for this playground and all that cost falls on my shoulders (and hopefully many others) to raise by July, so the less money to fundraise, the better. But the cost is what it is.

Also, here is another tidbit to consider. There are rules for playgrounds. For example, you have to have a certain amount of clearance with a safety material such as rubber flooring ($$$) or wood chips ($) surrounding the swings in case someone falls off.

Same goes for the end of slides, poles and places where kids can propel themselves onto the ground (which is pretty much anywhere). All those buffers increase the size of the playground and therefore increase the costs. The rules for playgrounds are different now then they were when Playtime Palace was first built.

We also wanted to make this playground more Americans with Disability Act accessible. Ever try to push a wheelchair on wood chips or soggy grass? I haven’t, but my friend with a disabled granddaughter has and she says it is no fun and really not fair. 

So, one of our goals for this Cranberry Uniting Playground (CUP) was to make it easy for people of all abilities to use and enjoy. This means having a concrete ramp running through the entire playground so that wheelchairs and strollers can easily enjoy the playground. 

I feel this added feature is worth every penny as community resources are meant to be enjoyed by all citizens and not just able-bodied ones.

We also set forth to build an abstract and non-cheesy playground. 

It is easy to go through the playground equipment catalog and pick a cheesy, plastic dinky playground. This playground will assuredly not be plastic or cheesy or dinky. 

We feel Cranberry is an awesome place to live and we needed an awesome playground to replace the iconic Playtime Palace. 

The new playground represents Cranberry Township of yesterday, today and tomorrow. I will have to explain this in more detail next week, but we did not want to put up a red plastic barn to represent the yester years of Cranberry and be that obvious.

We wanted kids to have quality equipment that could be used and imagined in many, many ways. It is easier said than done. We spent many weeks on finding abstract equipment with secret deeper meanings.

Lastly, we have to consider all the site work that needs to take place, including the new bathroom. The committee is not wasting money here. Truly, they (meaning the Board of Supervisors and employees) love Cranberry Township as much as all of us—and they only want to give us the best of everything. 

I was not the only resident on the planning committee. There were about 15 to 20 of us and we can all attest that every dollar for this playground is necessary and well spent.

Plus, this playground will be a community landmark that just reinforces our Business Week distinction as the BEST Community in Pennsylvania to raise a family and one of the TOP 50 places in the nation. 

Best of all, it will be built by the community using volunteers and donated money. More than $232,000 has been raised so far and at least 30 Ambassadors (and counting) have signed up to help us raise awareness for the playground……how about YOU?

I would be happy to meet with anyone to go over the blueprints and explain in detail all the nuances and creative little features of the playground that cannot be seen just by looking at the two renderings.

And, next week, I will go over all the secret meanings and hidden messages in the playground design.

As always, I enjoy and encourage your feedback. This is YOUR playground and you have a RIGHT to have your questions answered.

See you next week…

Erin McClymonds

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

CranberryKidsCastlePlayground January 17, 2013 at 07:35 PM
Thank you Jeff and Trina! The role of the playground ambassadors is to mail personal letters and envelopes for donations to their friends and neighbors. We are hoping through the ambassadors to reach every single home and business in cranberry. Thank you in advance for your support (and kind and positive words) !!
Walt January 17, 2013 at 08:42 PM
There's a lot of bluster in this blog... It costs a lot because it just does. The stuff has to be built to last, there has to be wood chips around the equipment, Cranberry is in business week, we need a sidewalk going through. Show the details, or you should not expect people to believe what you say - half a million dollars is a LOT of money!
CranberryKidsCastlePlayground January 17, 2013 at 09:00 PM
Thank you for your comments Walt! I do feel I provided many valid reasons to support the cost. As a member of the playground planning committee, I was privy to the spreadsheet detailing how each penny of the $500k was to be spent. Short of showing you the spreadsheet- which you could have seen if you had choose to get involved- you are just going to have to take my word for it. And as a citizen - you are going to have to trust that i am acting responsibly with my and your tax dollars. Perhaps you will consider getting more involved so you can see how worthwhile and fabulous this project is for our community.
Jeff Smith January 17, 2013 at 09:26 PM
Erin, I am assuming that you are not using tax dollars but donations for the playground. I think that is what makes it that much more special as it is being built not with taxes but with donations and volunteers. I see in the Cranberry Eagle you are near the half way point already in rasing the $500,000. I think that is great.
CranberryKidsCastlePlayground January 17, 2013 at 10:53 PM
Correct Jeff! All the money raised so far is donated money. This week - per the Cranberry Eagle there were large donations of $2500 (memory fails me - Rotary or Elks) and $3500 Grace Community Church! Clearly the community believes in this project and will continue to support it with donations!

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