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Paco Sanchez Park

Denver, CO USA


Playground Overview

The giant 1950s microphone-inspired tower heralds the horizon, but the built-in play value is what really makes this park honoring local radio DJ Paco Sanchez truly extraordinary. Brilliant colors and bold presence aside, it’s the imaginative use of musical references that do the hard work of delivering dynamic play. Notes and scales offer footholds. Soundwaves create netted climbing adventures. Chimes travel with kids as they run across the bridge. When iconic play and iconic architecture come together, they make beautiful music.

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Playground Details

  • Age Ranges

    • 5 to 12 years
  • Design Standards

  • ASTM
  • Installed

  • May 2018
  • Project Price Range
  • Pricing for custom playground equipment varies. For international and exact pricing, please contact your local playground consultant.

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Playground products shown in video may not be appropriate for every age group. Playsystems shown in video are for demonstration purposes only. Product configurations may vary.


Playground products shown in video may not be appropriate for every age group. Playsystems shown in video are for demonstration purposes only. Product configurations may vary.

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Rocky Mountain Recreation Inc.
PO Box 620411
Littleton, CO 80162
Toll free 800-636-0199
Phone 303-783-1452

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Play Reimagined

Engaging community and culture through park transformation

Paco Sanchez Park is a 30-acre parcel of land that offers mountain views as well as views of downtown Denver. It had become clear that the play and recreation options within Paco Sanchez Park were not meeting the needs of the community. And that’s why Denver Parks and Recreation set out to revitalize the space.

Taking a community-based approach with their Re-Imagine Play project, Denver Parks and Recreation set out to get children and families outdoors and encourage life-long active and healthy lifestyles. They used the following guiding principles to lead their planning process:

  • Provide play for all ages, abilities, and backgrounds
  • Active diverse programming
  • Promote health + wellness
  • Engage the community + culture
  • Respond to the site structure

“The goal of the park renovation was really to open up recreation to individuals who wouldn't otherwise have opportunities to do so,” explained Heather Runkel, senior park project manager with the City of Denver Parks and Recreation Department.

Playground products shown in video may not be appropriate for every age group. Playsystems shown in video are for demonstration purposes only. Product configurations may vary.

Collaborating for Success

To ensure that the park project was supported by community members, a series of public events were held to introduce the design team and get feedback on the plan. During a community tailgate party at the park ahead of a Denver Broncos game, one community member insisted that the park design honor Francisco “Paco” Sanchez, the namesake of the park.

“She was worried that the park renovation would diminish his legacy,” explained Runkel.

Paco Sanchez Park, located on the west side of Denver, is in a mostly Latino community with lots of culture. Feedback captured at those community events lead to discussions of how the play space could highlight Paco Sanchez’s history in broadcast radio.

“Continued community collaboration was key to the development and success of this site.” Heather Runkel, PLA, senior park project manager, City and County of Denver Parks and Recreation Department

“The public was excited about the possibilities,” said Runkel. “The original park had an old playground structure and a basketball court. And residents couldn't wait to have something new, innovative and fun for the entire community.”

Mountain Views and a History Lesson

The site where the playground was scheduled to be installed was very sloped, and the design team used that to their advantage. By including a playground tower in the design, users would not only get a birds-eye view of the entire park, but they would also be able to take in mountain views.

To honor Paco Sanchez and his historic work in radio in the 1950s, the design team, including Landscape Structures and Dig Studio, chose to incorporate a broadcasting theme throughout the playground. Their research unveiled many pictures of Paco Sanchez with a vintage microphone, which led to the creation of the microphone-inspired playground tower.

In addition to honoring Paco Sanchez, park planners wanted to create a community gathering space that would promote health and wellness. That’s why they designed the playground tower that was filled with playground nets, pod steppers, rope climbers, rubber belting to create hang out spots, a slide, and even hand- and footholds along the top of the slide.

“Every time the design team talked, the design evolved and got cooler and cooler,” said Runkel. “It was truly a partnership among everyone involved.”

In addition to the microphone-themed playground tower, there are ground-level climbers that mimic radio sounds waves, a concrete slide with a gramophone entrance and playable chimes along the bridge. Even more, there is a playable Paco sign at the entrance to the park.

“The broadcast theme just kept resonating with the design team.” Heather Runkel, City and County of Denver Parks and Recreation Department

Because one of the guiding principles was to provide play for all ages, abilities and backgrounds, ADA accessibility was an important piece of the design. Designers wanted to allow everyone access to the tower and accomplished this by developing an elevated bridge from the tower to additional play components at ground level as well as the nearby parking lot.


An Instrument for Interaction

The reimagined Paco Sanchez Park opened to the public in June 2018, and it has been a hit. People from all over the city are making a point to come visit the new play space.

“It's amazing how many different opportunities for play we were able to incorporate like the climbing handholds on top of the spiral slide,” exclaimed Runkel. “We just made the whole thing playable! The possibilities are limitless for how to interact, and kids are really challenging themselves.”

“One of my favorite things to do is just go there and listen to what people are saying.”

The park has become an attraction for generations of families. Parents and grandparents are joining kids on the playground, or at least sitting nearby on the benches positioned right next to the tower. And with picnic tables surrounding the play space, families are staying for hours.

“There are so many opportunities for everyone to interact!”

“You could call this the first phase of the project,” said Runkel. “We’re starting the second phase, which will include restrooms and kiosks with athletic equipment for the community to check-out free of charge. This park has become an experiment; we want to see what is successful here, what can be used to help keep the community active and what may work at other parks.”

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