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Guide to Upgrading Commercial Outdoor Playground Equipment

Guide to Upgrading Commercial Outdoor Playground Equipment

Outdoor play and exercise are crucial for developing kids, and playgrounds are one of the most beneficial spaces for kids to get their recommended 60 minutes of physical activity. However, when playgrounds begin wearing down and lacking the thrill they once had, it’s time to start considering an upgrade. Upgrading your playground is advantageous for many reasons, such as encouraging inclusion and safety and creating a positive experience. Is it time to upgrade your playground components?

Find out what to look for as your current playground ages, as well as why and how you should upgrade your commercial playground equipment with this guide.

Signs Your Commercial Playground Equipment Could Use an Upgrade

Despite being designed to withstand years of exciting play, even playground equipment undergoes wear and tear. As the years go by, these components will likely require more frequent repairs and begin showing other signs of degradation. If you’re not sure whether your playground equipment is ready for an upgrade, consider these common signs that your play space needs a refresh:

  • Unequal surfacing: Playground surfacing is an essential element that often gets overlooked. When your playground surfacing becomes unequal, it poses a safety risk for both kids and adults. This issue happens most often with loose-fill playground surfacing like engineered wood fiber. Engineered wood fiber gets moved around the play space or removed from the area altogether by various forces, including kids playing and windy weather. When the surfacing begins to pile up or wear down in certain areas, take it as a sign that it needs to be refilled.
  • Frequent repairs: As playground equipment receives normal wear and tear, it will likely require repairs from time to time, especially on popular components that kids use day after day. When you start noticing certain pieces of equipment need to be repaired multiple times within shorter time spans, it’s likely time to upgrade it instead of repairing it yet again.
  • Complaints and concerns: An obvious sign that your playground needs some upgrades is when you begin receiving complaints or concerns about the state of the equipment. Concerned kids, parents and caregivers will reach out to you or members of your team if they notice damaged pieces of equipment, missing parts and more. Take these notifications seriously and inspect your equipment for areas of concern.
  • Age of the equipment: While some playground equipment can last for 15 to 20 or more years, a good rule of thumb is that playground updates should occur around every 10 years. The more often you perform preventive maintenance and repair damage, the longer your equipment will last. If you notice your playground equipment is still in optimal condition as you near the 10-year mark, you may be able to wait on upgrades.
  • Breaks and defective equipment: Breaks and defective equipment are essential to upgrade. Minor breaks may be able to get by with repairs, though significant damage often requires improvements. Consistent playground inspections will help you catch any areas of concern before they result in an injury or further damage.

With normal wear and tear, it can be challenging to determine when to upgrade your playground equipment. However, looking for these signs will help give you a better idea of when it might be time to do so. To gain a better understanding of commercial playground equipment upgrades, consider why you should update your playground, the costs and benefits of doing so and ways to create an upgraded play space.

Reasons to Update Your Outdoor Playground

playground from an above view

Updating a commercial playground is no small task, so you may be wondering why you should do it all. Many factors contribute to the decision of why you should take on this project. As you weigh your options and look for reasons to go through with an upgrade, consider a few of these.

Improving Playground Inclusivity

Playground designs and features have changed significantly in recent years to create inclusive play spaces for kids of all abilities. This has become increasingly important, as playground designers want to give all kids equal playing opportunities. If your playground equipment is aging and some kids feel limited by the current play setup, upgrading your playground could help improve inclusivity. Inclusive playgrounds are designed to allow kids of varying ages and abilities to play in the same space.

With upgraded playground equipment, you’ll help enhance access to play for kids of different physical and mental capabilities. For example, kids who use mobility devices are unable to use traditional climbing equipment like steps and ladders, as well as many traditional swings. An upgraded playground could feature more options that allow kids with mobility devices to access these aspects of play.

Kids with other special needs, like sensory processing disorders, could benefit from play equipment that stimulates their senses and quiet spaces that let them regroup when they get overwhelmed. An upgraded playground allows you to accommodate the needs of more kids who want to enjoy your play space.

Protecting Kids With New Equipment

Children on playground spring rider

Broken and worn-down equipment poses a safety risk for anyone using the playground. Upgrading it helps protect kids using the equipment because the new components will be in significantly better shape than the parts being replaced. With improved playground safety, parents, caregivers, administrators and any other involved adults can have peace of mind while the playground is in use.

Improving Durability

Playground equipment can be made using various materials, including plastic, wood and metal. Wooden playground equipment requires extensive maintenance and preventive measures to stay in a quality, long-lasting condition. If your current playground equipment consists of an unreliable material or one that has been degrading faster than you want, updating your playground can improve its durability.

Modern playground equipment is most commonly made using commercial-grade plastics and metals. These quality materials are built to last, making the investment to enhance your play space well worth it. Using high-quality materials to improve your playground equipment’s durability will help ensure your upgraded recreational area stays in good condition over the coming years.

Adding New Amenities

Little girl on playground net under shading

Another reason to upgrade your playground is the opportunity to add new amenities. As your playground gets used, you may realize some things are missing that would be nice to have or that kids and their caregivers may really enjoy. Upgrading your playground is the perfect opportunity to add any features that may have been absent before. For example, your upgraded play space may benefit from new accommodations for adults and caregivers.

While kids are typically the primary audience for playgrounds, it’s easy to forget that adults and caregivers spend the same amount of time on the playground either supervising or playing with the kids. You can add a few amenities to your playground as you update it to help make it a more welcoming environment for all guests instead of just for the kids.

For example, benches are one of the best ways to accommodate playground guests. When adults are supervising play, they’ll enjoy and appreciate a place to sit where they can still observe the kids. Seating areas also provide a space within the playground for adults to meet and interact with other caregivers and parents.

Another amenity you may consider adding is shade structures. On sunny days, playground equipment and benches can get hot. Take care of kids and their caregivers by providing shaded areas where they can get a break from the sun.

Benefits of Upgrading Play Spaces

In general, play is extremely important for growing and learning kids. Providing the best possible playground only enhances the benefits of play. If you’re looking for more reasons to upgrade your playground, consider some additional benefits of upgraded play spaces.

Improved Experience for Guests

New playground structure

Upgraded playgrounds can help improve the experience guests have while at your playground. With improved play equipment, guests can feel a new excitement toward your playground. Kids will be thrilled to explore new parts of the play space, and parents and caregivers will look forward to bringing their kids. An updated playground with inclusive components will significantly improve the experience for kids with various ability levels, as they’ll have more opportunities to play and challenge themselves.

An improved experience for guests means they’ll be more likely to continue coming back to the playground in the future.

Added Safety

Old playground equipment that’s worn down and needs repairs can quickly create safety risks for guests. With new components, you can limit accidents. Updated playgrounds can create a safe and fun space for kids without the hazards of old equipment. Additionally, updating other aspects of your playground like walkways, surfacing and fencing also help create a safer play environment for all kids.

For example, wide walkways and access ramps can help provide a safe route throughout your playground for guests with mobility devices. These changes allow everyone to have access to all parts of the playground.

Attracts New Participants

wheelchair accessible playground structure

In addition to refreshing interest in your regular visitors, an upgraded playground is likely to attract new participants. Whether it’s a school playground or community park, fresh equipment shines like no other. The news of bright colors and new, thrilling play options will spread quickly, drawing in kids and families. Depending on the location of your playground, an increase in visitors can create an opportunity for the school or community to grow and for kids and adults to meet new people and socialize.

Added Sense of Community

Upgrading your play space can create a sense of community and unite citizens in the area, encouraging them to cultivate care and improved development toward physical activity, especially among young kids. Improved playgrounds reflect that your community cares about providing a quality space for individuals to spend time outside and get exercise. Additionally, these recreational spots provide a space for people to gather at and have pride in, regardless of age.

How Much Does an Upgrade to a Commercial Playground Cost?

Shaded toddler play structure

Now let’s get down to the specifics — how much would a project like this cost? As with any remodeling project, you want to be sure your plans will fit into your budget. Cost estimates can help you gain an understanding of what kind of upgrades you can afford and what you may have to wait on. You should consider several factors in your budget, and the costs of them will vary depending on the intensiveness of the upgrades you want to make.

Let’s break down a budget based on the following aspects of a standard-sized playground upgrade:

  •  New equipment: Plan to dedicate around 40% of your budget to new play equipment. With a large portion of your budget set aside for play equipment, you can add new play structures of various sizes and arrangements. Be sure to also consider independently standing structures, like slides and swings. The new equipment you choose will depend on what needs to be upgraded and what new play options you want to offer to your guests.
  • Amenities: Around 13% of your budget should be dedicated to adding amenities to your playground. These features may include shade structures, benches, picnic tables and other elements to provide added comfort for playground guests. This amount of your budget ensures you get quality amenities at a reasonable cost.
  • New surfacing: If you’re looking to upgrade your playground’s surfacing for safety or aesthetic purposes, dedicate about 15% of your budget to new surfacing. Options like rubber tiles and pour-in-place rubber surfacing are lower maintenance choices that are well worth the investment. Consider selections like these to avoid refilling loose-fill surfacing.
  • Installation: Installation costs can equate to up to 27% of your budget. These expenses will vary depending on the removal of your existing playground equipment and who installs your new playground. Some manufacturers take care of installation themselves, while others recommend hiring a professional installer. Regardless, installation costs also typically cover labor expenses and any required equipment or materials to complete the installation.
  • Shipping: Shipping costs can vary dramatically, depending on the location your playground equipment is being shipped to. It’s safe to plan for 5% of your budget to be spent on shipping, though more remote locations can easily cost up to 10%. Shipping expenses will also vary depending on the freight company handling the shipping.

It’s important to keep in mind that the costs to upgrade a commercial playground can vary greatly. Several factors can affect these expenses, including the manufacturer’s prices, custom equipment, materials used, the number and size of equipment additions and much more. It’s best to communicate your budget and your estimated project cost with your chosen manufacturer and their professional representatives.

When Should Playground Upgrades Take Place?

train themed playground structure

As with many other aspects of your upgrade project, the best time for a playground upgrade will depend on the location of your play space. It’s best for upgrades to occur when there are the fewest chances for project delays and interruptions. Careful planning allows the process to run smoothly and efficiently, allowing kids to experience the new playground sooner.

To make equipment removal and installation as safe and easy as possible, it’s most convenient to start the project when there will be the fewest kids using the playground. In many cases, summer is the ideal time to begin performing updates.

Summer is a great time for schools to upgrade their playgrounds because all the students are out of school. Doing the upgrade when kids are on their summer break means you’ll avoid disrupting classes and recess. Additionally, there will be very few kids using the playground during this time of the year, giving the installation crew the time and space necessary to complete the project.

During the summer, many playgrounds tend to see fewer kids and families in general because of the hot weather. Those hot and humid days are often better spent at the pool or enjoying activities in the cool indoors. Because of this, parks and other playground locations should complete upgrades during the summer as well.

Another benefit of working during the summer is fewer weather delays. Spring typically comes with a lot of rain, fall gets cold early and winter brings snow, ice and freezing weather. Bad weather can result in delays, making your project take longer than it should. Summer is the ideal time of year to help you avoid weather delays and stay within the estimated time frame.

Depending on the intensity of your upgrades, your playground project could take a few months. Utilize the summer months to help the installation process speed along and yield a great finished project.

Ways to Upgrade Outdoor Commercial Playground Spaces

Yellow and blue playground structure

Playground upgrades can take many forms and consist of several different updates. If you’re unsure where to start, consider some of these ways to upgrade your commercial playground space:

  • Thrilling structures: One of the best ways to upgrade your playground is to replace old equipment with new, thrilling play experiences. Adding more variety among play structures gives kids more options and ways to get excited about your playground. For example, add levels of challenge with different ways for kids to climb around your play space.
  • Accessible components: Many people take replacing playground equipment as an opportunity to upgrade to more accessible components. Add elements that allow every kid to access the same opportunities for action-packed play. For example, consider how ramps and railings can help kids maneuver the playground. Additionally, adding inclusive play structures, like inclusive spinners, allows all kids to play together.
  • Sensory components: Sensory panels and playground components enable kids to stimulate their senses through fun activities. Fun colors, shapes, textures and sounds help kids develop valuable skills and knowledge through play. From musical instruments to roller slides, there are numerous ways to encourage sensory development through play when you include sensory components in your playground upgrade.
  • Shade amenities: Adding amenities is a great way to upgrade your current playground and provide comfort for anyone who visits the area. Shade amenities can benefit all playground guests, helping to protect them from the sun on hot days. Shade structures can be positioned over any part of your playground or over the play space as a whole. They can even help stop rain from reaching the play area, helping to safeguard the guests from slipping hazards and the equipment from rust or other damages.

There are numerous ways to upgrade your playground and make it a new, inclusive and fun space for kids of all ages and abilities to share. If you’re unsure about where to start and what to choose for your playground, consider looking at previous projects for inspiration.

Miracle® Recreation Representatives Can Help You Upgrade Your Playground

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Improving your playground alone can be challenging, especially if it’s the first upgrade you’re making. Naturally, you’ll want to find the best products to make your playground stand out. The representatives at Miracle Recreation are your source of help while you navigate your playground project. From budgeting to design, we’ll help you put the thrill of outdoor play back into your play space. Thanks to our decades of expertise in the playground industry, our representatives have the knowledge and ability to help you with your project needs.

For help with your playground upgrade, contact us at Miracle Recreation for pricing, design inspiration and more.