Glendale Gets Kids Moving

Glendale, Ariz., At a Glance

Location: Just northwest of Phoenix

Population: 240,000

Days of Sunshine per Year: 320

Number of Parks: 78

Number of play structures: 50

The City of Glendale, Ariz., is accustomed to being in the news. It’s one of the nation’s fastest growing cities, home to the new University of Phoenix Stadium (ranked among the most innovative sports venues in the world) and, now, proud owner of the nation’s first installation of the Evos playsystem, a new type of playground introduced by Landscape Structures of Delano, Minn., which is working to change the way kids play and stay fit.

Unlike traditional playsystems, Evos features a spherical design offering kids an infinite number of ways to enter, exit, and move through the playground--no prescribed entry and exit points that channel the flow of play.

Because play is possible in every direction, kids find that no two play experiences are ever the same, which has proven to keep users challenged and, as a result, playing longer and more energetically.

Sahuaro Ranch Regional Park

According to Bill Schwind, Deputy Director for Glendale Parks and Recreation, this new philosophy was a natural fit for Sahuaro Ranch, the largest and most visited regional park--home to a sparkling youth sports complex, historic area (17 acres of the park house buildings listed on the National Register of Historic Places and available for tour by visitors), library, dog park and more.

“Our regional parks--those of more than 25 acres--draw people from a broad geographic area, making a recreation destination for families throughout the region,” says Schwind, and, “when our project coordinator saw a presentation on the Evos playsystem, he thought it would be a successful addition to Sahuaro Ranch. He was absolutely correct.”

The core of the Sahuaro Ranch installation is a customized configuration of sweeping structural arches that support a matrix of horizontal ladders, Corocord cable climbers, Wobble Pods and banister-like slides.

According to Barb King, co-founder and president of Landscape Structures, it is this unusual design that first draws kids into the playground.

“The design is intellectually challenging,” says King. “Because of this, it has tremendous appeal among older children and those who thrive on unstructured play. In many ways, the play structure is the equivalent of a skate park, where there is always another self-directed challenge to create and explore.”

Hands Off --No, We Mean It!

Of course, the ultimate test of any play structure is whether or not it gets used.

According to Schwind, he knew he had a hit on his hands immediately.

“We completed the installation a few days before the unveiling and dedication (in early March), and we had trouble keeping kids away--it was that attractive. When we unveiled the playsystem, it was a jaw-dropper; kids were chomping at the bit to get on it and it has been busy ever since.”

Schwind adds, “Fifty yards from the Evos installation is another playsystem that we installed several years ago. This is more of a traditional system with stairway entries to deck platforms and particular points where you get on and get off. If you go out to Sahuaro today, you will see at least 40-50 kids playing on Evos, many more than are playing on the other system. Evos has really opened our eyes to the need for different types of play experiences.”

The Next Step In The Evolution Of Play

Only time will tell if the new playsystem is popular simply because it’s new or if the different design is really a leap forward in the evolution of play.

Schwind and his project coordinator, Roger Boyer, believe the verdict is already in.

“I have noticed that Evos appears to occupy a child’s body and mind,” says Boyer. “It challenges them mentally and physically, and encourages them to push themselves. Even during installation we had kids lined up outside the fence looking at Evos, and they were all saying, ‘I don’t know what it is, but I can’t wait to play on it.’”

Boyer says even parents have noticed there is something different in how their kids play on this style of system.

“One parent had her daughter here for an hour-and-a-half, and when she said it was time to leave, the daughter said, ‘But, Mom, I haven’t gotten to play on it all yet.’ I loved it when I heard that.”

Schwind agrees. “The thing I see when I watch kids play on Evos is that there are no lines to get on and off the playsystem or to use any of the events. There are no kids bunching up on platforms or stairs, and no one is standing around. They are kind of all over it. And they are almost exclusively using their upper body and core muscles to climb and move through the playstructure.

They’re getting a very good workout when they play. We call it our ‘Spider Man’ system.”

Featured Attraction

Like the new higher, faster roller coaster at an amusement park, the Glendale Parks and Recreation Department has noticed the new playsystem has increased the popularity of Sahuaro Ranch--turning it into a play destination with many families passing up their neighborhood parks just to let kids play on Evos.

“I think the reason why Evos is so successful is that it lets each child make the play experience as challenging as he or she wants,” says Boyer. “And the next time the child comes to the playground he or she will have an entirely new experience. It doesn’t get old.”

For more information, contact Bill Schwind or Rober Boyer at (623) 930-2820.