Guide to Upgrading Commercial Outdoor Playground Equipment

Guide to Upgrading Commercial Outdoor Playground Equipment

Outdoor play and exercise are essential for developing kids, and playgrounds are among the best spaces for kids to get their recommended 60 minutes of physical activity. When playgrounds get older and less exciting, it’s time to consider an upgrade. Upgrading your playground is helpful for many reasons — it encourages inclusion and safety and creates a positive experience. Is it time to upgrade your playground components?

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

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Signs Your Commercial Playground Equipment Could Use an Upgrade

Signs Your Commercial Playground Equipment Could Use an Upgrade

While a strong design helps your playground equipment withstand years of exciting play, wear and tear is unavoidable. As the years go by, these components will need more frequent repairs and show 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 kids and adults. This issue happens most often with loose-fill playground surfacing like engineered wood fiber. Engineered wood fiber gets moved around or removed 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’s time to refill.
  • Frequent Repairs: As playground equipment receives normal wear and tear, it will need repairs. Popular components will wear out even faster. When you start noticing certain equipment needs frequent repairs, it’s likely time to upgrade it instead of repairing it again.
  • Complaints and Concerns: Receiving complaints or concerns about the equipment’s state is a clear sign your playground needs upgrades. Concerned kids, parents and caregivers will reach out to you or your team members if they notice damaged pieces of equipment, missing parts and more. Take these notifications seriously and inspect your equipment for areas of concern.
  • Equipment Age: While some playground equipment can last 15 to 20 years, 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 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 repaired, 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 regular wear and tear, it can take time to determine when to upgrade your playground equipment. However, looking for these signs will help give you a better idea of when to do so. Consider why you should update your playground, the costs and benefits and ways to create an upgraded play space. All of these factors will give you a better understanding of commercial playground equipment upgrades.

Reasons to Update Your Outdoor Playground

playground from an above view

  • Updating a commercial playground is no small task, so you might wonder why you should do it all. Many factors contribute to deciding 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
  • Updating your playground features can help create inclusive play spaces for kids of all abilities. Inclusivity has become increasingly important — playground designers want to give all kids equal playing opportunities. Older playground equipment might not be as accessible. Upgrading your playground could help improve inclusivity. Inclusive playgrounds allow kids of varying ages and abilities to play in the same space.
  • Upgraded playground equipment helps increase play access for kids of different physical and mental capabilities. For example, kids who use mobility devices may not be able to use traditional climbing equipment like steps and ladders, as well as many conventional 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

New equipment might help parents, caregivers, administrators and other involved adults feel more at peace while the playground is in use.

Broken and worn-down equipment poses a safety risk for anyone using the playground. Upgrading it helps protect kids using the equipment. New components will be in significantly better shape than the original parts. New equipment might help parents, caregivers, administrators and other involved adults feel more at peace while the playground is in use.

Improving Durability

Playground equipment uses various materials, including plastic, wood and metal. Wooden equipment needs extensive care and protection to stay in quality, long-lasting condition. If your current playground setup uses an unreliable or degrading material, updating 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 improves your playground equipment’s durability. Better materials also ensure your upgraded recreational area stays in good condition for 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 enjoy. Upgrading your playground is the perfect opportunity to add missing features. For example, your upgraded play space might include new accommodations for adults and caregivers.

While kids are typically the primary audience for playgrounds, adults and caregivers spend the same amount of time on the playground, supervising or playing with the kids. You can add amenities to your playground to help make it a more welcoming environment for all guests.

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

Benefits of Playground Improvement

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

With improved play equipment, guests can feel a new excitement toward your playground.

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 love exploring new areas, and parents and caregivers will look forward to bringing their kids. An updated, inclusive playground improves the experience for kids with various ability levels. They’ll have more opportunities to play and challenge themselves.

An improved experience for guests means they’ll be more likely to return in the future.

Added Safety

Old playground equipment that needs repairs can quickly create safety risks for guests. With new components, you can limit accidents. Updated playgrounds create a safe and fun space for kids without the hazards of old equipment. Also, updating walkways, surfacing and fencing helps build a safer play environment for everyone.

Wide walkways and access ramps help provide a safe route through 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

Besides entertaining 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. News of bright colors and thrilling play options will spread quickly, drawing in kids and families. An increase in visitors can create an opportunity for the school or community to grow. It also allows kids and adults to meet new people and socialize.

Added Sense of Community

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

When Should Playground Upgrades Take Place?

Summer is a great time for schools to upgrade because students are out of school.

As with many other parts of your upgrade project, the best time for a playground upgrade depends on your play space’s location. Upgrades should happen when there are the fewest chances for project delays and interruptions. Careful planning helps the process run smoothly and efficiently. It also allows kids to experience the new playground sooner.

Start the project during less popular periods to make equipment removal and installation as safe and easy as possible. Often, summer is the ideal time to begin performing updates.

Summer is a great time for schools to upgrade because students are out of school. Doing the upgrade during summer break means you’ll avoid disrupting classes and recess. With fewer kids using the playground during this time of the year, the installation crew has the time and space to complete the project.

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. Summer can be an ideal time of year to help you avoid weather delays and stay within the estimated time frame.

While summer is a great time for many locations to renovate, it might be your playground’s busiest season, especially if the playground is in a park. If you see lots of playground use during summer, consider upgrading in the spring or fall when kids are in school and summer camps are finished. You may have to work in cooler temperatures or around bouts of rain, but you’ll be able to renovate more easily when the playground is less busy.

Depending on the intensity of your upgrades, your playground project could take a few months. Utilize the summer months to speed along installation 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. Selecting updates that work with your playground space ensures everyone gets the most fun out of the area. If you’re unsure where to start, consider some of these ways to upgrade your commercial playground space:

#1. Thrilling Structures

One of the best ways to upgrade your playground is to replace old equipment with new, thrilling play experiences. Adding variety gives kids more options and ways to get excited about your playground. While all types of playground equipment can provide thrilling adventures for kids, climbing, in particular, has many developmental benefits. It introduces a safe yet exciting risk as kids find creative ways to summon their bravery and conquer new heights.

Climbing helps kids build confidence in their abilities, while complex climbing structures work on their problem-solving skills. As kids learn their way around new climbers, they’re also exercising. While climbing, kids engage muscle groups in their arms, legs, back and core while improving their hand-eye coordination. Climbing is a prominent feature of active play, enticing kids to get their heart rates up and improve their balance.

Additionally, spinners, swings, slides and balancing equipment bring more thrill to a playground. Spinners help develop children’s motor skills while swings strengthen their coordination. Slides allow children to learn how to take turns while giving them speed and thrills in a controlled environment. Balance equipment further develops their muscles and concentration skills.

You can find many climbers to add to your playground that will upgrade play experiences for kids of all ages. A new thrill component is the perfect way to modernize an existing playground and complement the other equipment. Kids will love the new structures and may even incorporate them into imaginative games that broaden their creative thinking skills.

#2. Accessible Components

For you playground to be a true asset to your community, consider going above and beyond the ADA standards.

Replacing playground equipment is 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. Adding inclusive play areas, like inclusive spinners, allows all kids to play together.

Inclusive equipment is one of the most important aspects of modern playgrounds. It allows kids with and without disabilities to enjoy many playground activities. When you upgrade or replace your playground equipment, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires you to comply with certain standards for people with mobility devices, including the following:

  • Accessible routes to the playground
  • Accessible routes to at least one of each type of ground-level play area
  • Accessible routes to at least half of the playground’s elevated components
  • Handrails on both sides of any ramps
  • ADA-compliant surfacing that’s inspected and maintained regularly

For your playground to be a true asset to your community, consider going above and beyond the ADA standards. Rather than simply meeting minimum wheelchair accessibility requirements, try to create a play area that’s truly innovative and fun for everyone.

Your playground should also be inclusive of kids with a range of developmental needs. Quiet areas can be a refuge from loud, social play for kids with sensory processing disorder or autism spectrum disorder*.

In addition, you can make your playground enjoyable for kids with visual impairments and kids with hearing impairments by adding a range of sensory activities, such as musical instruments and chalkboards for writing messages and drawing pictures.

Making intentional decisions about playground accessibility and inclusivity can spark change for kids and adults. Inclusive playgrounds should also extend to sitting areas and equipment that allow parents or caregivers with disabilities to comfortably supervise their kids or join the fun. Your inclusive playground can serve as an example of how to make all spaces more inclusive throughout your greater community.

#3. Sensory Components

Sensory panels and playground components help kids stimulate their senses through fun activities. Fun colors, shapes, textures and sounds help kids develop valuable skills and knowledge through play. There are many ways to encourage sensory development through play, from musical instruments to roller slides, when you include sensory components in your playground upgrade.

Consider adding products from the Miracle® Museum™ to your playground renovation. You can easily replace pieces or add Miracle Museum products to your playground without disrupting the flow of existing equipment. Children can explore colors, textures, shapes and structures for an imaginative, engaging playground experience. From sensory panels to the Reflex® and the Inclusive Whirl spinner, you’ll expand your playground entertainment and create a sensory space everyone can enjoy.

#4. Shade Amenities

Shade amenities can benefits all guests, helping to protect them from the sun on hot days.

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 guests, helping to protect them from the sun on hot days. Shade structures have many benefits, including:

  • A cooler play area: A shade structure stretched across your playground can make your play space up to 20 degrees cooler.
  • Cooler equipment: Lower temperatures in the shade make for equipment that’s cooler to the touch. Hot days often deter kids from playing on heat-retaining metal playgrounds. Shade can help decrease the chances of burns and let kids play outside comfortably on even the hottest days.
  • Sun protection: Shade structures can help protect kids from direct sunlight as they play. Many canopy fabrics can block up to 96% of the sun’s harmful UV rays, helping reduce the risk of sunburn so kids can spend more time outside.
  • Inclusivity: Shade structures make your playground more welcoming to people with sun allergies or sensitivities. Many kids take medications that make them more susceptible to overheating and sun poisoning. Shade gives all kids the opportunity to play on sunny days.

Whether your playground is big or small, you’ll find a shade structure that adequately covers everything it needs to. Choose from several styles, including:

  • Cantilever: Benefit from a single-post design without it taking up space in the play area by using a cantilever structure that positions the post off to one side.
  • Hip: Get just the right shade fit for your playground with flexible hip styles.
  • Pyramid: Use a structure with a distinctive pyramid-shaped canopy for a sturdy and attractive shade solution over large play areas.
  • Integrated: See about using existing posts in your play equipment as a base for a shade canopy to minimize the number of poles you use and maximize play space.

You can mix and match structures to customize the area of shade you need. Use a large canopy over the playground equipment, surrounded by smaller canopies for seating areas and other site amenities.

#5. Imaginative Themes

Enhance the free play spaces at your playground with themed structures. Themes are the perfect way to jumpstart kids’ imaginations while leaving room for them to create stories based on the setting your playground provides. Some popular playground themes include castles, pirate ships and outer space.

Playground themes can also be educational. Kids can learn about history while exploring a castle-like structure or be inspired to follow a science career after pretending to be an astronaut planning the next space mission. You can also create a custom theme that honors your town’s history or prominent careers in a way that’s engaging for kids of all ages.

#6. Upgraded Playground Surfacing

All playgrounds need a comfortable, even ground surface to help cushion falls during active play. From toddlers learning how to walk to kids imagining elaborate games, everyone can enjoy a soft ground covering.

Depending on the type of ground surfacing your playground already has and its condition, you may want to upgrade it to provide a better, more accessible play experience.

There are many 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 where to start and what to choose for your playground, consider looking at previous projects for inspiration.

Playgrounds can have two types of surfacing:

  1. Loose-fill: Loose-fill surfacing, such as engineered wood fiber, provides all-around cushioning. Keep in mind that this surfacing needs continual maintenance to ensure appropriate depth.
  2. Unitary: Unitary surfacing provides the same coverage as loose-fill surfacing but is more even and fixed. It comes in different color options and gives you a level playground surface for kids to play on.

If your playground needs new surfacing, consider a unitary option that allows for minimal maintenance and maximum accessibility.

As with any new playground equipment or accessory installations, follow the most updated guidelines regarding surfacing measurements and requirements.

#7. Site Amenities

Add several elements to round out the playground experience.

While your playground’s main features are its play areas, the surrounding accessories help make the space enjoyable for everyone. Whether your play area is part of a larger park or a focal point of its own, you can add several elements to round out the playground experience.

If you want to upgrade your playground, consider these amenities:

  • Benches: Give adults a comfortable place to sit while they watch their kids play with benches scattered around the play area. Kids can also enjoy places to sit if they need a physical or mental break from active play.
  • Picnic tables: Offer additional seating with a few picnic tables around the playground. Families can take advantage of a nice day to pack a lunch when they head to the park, knowing they’ll have a comfortable place to spend the whole afternoon.
  • Litter receptacles: Wherever you encourage people to bring food, place a trash receptacle nearby. Containing trash keeps your playground clean and reduces the amount of litter in the environment.
  • Bike racks: Encourage a healthy lifestyle that continues beyond play equipment with bike racks near your playground. Bike racks invite families to ride their bikes to and from playtime.

#8. Greenery

One of the reasons playgrounds are so enticing is their outdoor setting. Nice weather calls kids and adults alike to enjoy the sunshine. Make your playground even more of an outdoor haven by adding plants.

Whether your play space is already part of a vast natural landscape or is set in a more urban environment, plants can add charm to any play area. Visitors will love to sit among shrubs and vines that tie the outdoor experience together.

Research to find plants that will thrive in your area and look the best around your playground without becoming overgrown. Opting for native plants is a great way to contribute to the local ecosystem without introducing invasive species. You may want to avoid flowering plants that attract bees, as they could deter kids from enjoying your playground.

#9. Fitness Stations

While your playground equipment may be strictly for kids, the adults in your community can also benefit from an active lifestyle. Make exercise as exciting as play by providing adult fitness stations.

Some of the biggest benefits of fitness stations include:

  • Time outdoors: Whether adults are accompanying kids to the playground or looking for a reason to get out of the house, outdoor fitness equipment is a great motivator. Studies have shown that exercising outdoors can improve mental health and even boost physiological health.
  • Free exercise opportunities: Gym memberships and exercise classes can be expensive, which may make people feel at a loss for maintaining an active lifestyle. Making your fitness stations free to the public can draw more people to the area and help your playground thrive.
  • Variety: Outdoor fitness areas invite people back again and again with their innovative designs. Some equipment looks like standard gym components, while other styles resemble classic playground structures, all of which will pique interest.
  • Convenience: A fitness station near your playground will attract people who already frequent the area, such as parents who bring their kids to the playground. Parents and caregivers can take turns, with one exercising while the other supervises the kids.

You can also incorporate fitness stations for kids and teens who want to get their heart rates up. Fitness equipment helps your playground stay relevant as kids grow. People of all ages can stay healthy and return to your play area year after year.

#10. Signage

Consider adding signs that clearly state important information to help visitors. You can customize these signs with details like your playground’s name, open hours and any rules you want everyone to follow.

Signs can also help distinguish between areas of your playground. Use them to designate suggested age groups for different play equipment sections or to introduce fitness stations and explain how to use each component.

Signs display expectations for playground guests so everyone can help keep the space clean and fun. Additionally, they welcome visitors to the area and let everyone know who can use the equipment and when. Offering added clarity about your playground would make people feel free to keep coming back.

How Much Does an Upgrade to a Commercial Playground Cost?

Cost estimates can help you understand what upgrades you can afford and what you may have to wait on.

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 fit into your budget. Cost estimates can help you understand what upgrades you can afford and what you may have to wait on. You should consider several factors in your budget. Their costs will vary depending on the intensity 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 part of your budget set aside for play equipment, you can add new play areas of various sizes and arrangements. Be sure to consider independently standing structures, like slides and swings. The new equipment you choose will depend on what needs upgrading and what new play options you want to offer to your guests.
  • Amenities: You should dedicate around 13% of your budget to adding playground amenities. These features may include shade structures, benches, picnic tables and other elements to provide guests comfort. 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 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. Installation costs also typically cover labor expenses and any required equipment or materials.
  • 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 areas can easily cost up to 10%. Shipping expenses will also vary depending on the freight company handling the shipping.

It’s essential to remember that upgrading costs for 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. You should communicate your budget and estimated project cost with your manufacturer and their professional representatives.

Tips for Funding a Playground Upgrade

If your playground needs a few updates that seem out of your budget, think again. Luckily, playground makeovers can be put in place without breaking the bank.

When your organization needs some extra funds to add some more excitement to your playground, consider these tips for gathering community interest and financial support:

  • Build a fundraising team: Whatever fundraising options you choose, you’ll need a team dedicated to finding the best financial solutions.
  • Determine your budget: Decide what upgrades you want and determine how much they’ll cost. Then, decide how much money you can realistically spend on certain updates and how you’ll cover those costs. Think about equipment prices and installation costs.
  • Involve local businesses: Look for community support from businesses with strong ties to your surrounding area. Local businesses may agree to sponsor your playground’s renovations in exchange for you recognizing their donations through signs and plaques around the play area.
  • Apply for grants: Depending on the scope of your playground renovations, you may be eligible to apply for federal, state and local government grants — research grant opportunities to see which organizations could support your endeavors.
  • Host an event: Hosting a ticketed event will involve your entire community in your playground’s future. Have the proceeds go toward funding playground upgrades. Celebrating with families at a carnival, festival or other gathering helps your organization connect with the people your playground serves while crowdfunding with your community.

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.