When the citizens of Williston, North Dakota, built their new, state-of-the-art recreation center, they made certain to include an exciting indoor PlayBooster® playstructure for kids ages 5 to 12. This light-filled sanctuary is especially active during the harsh winter months, with children scrambling up the Croquet Climber or the angled Sunbeam Climber to run the length of the bridge system. Then they can choose among four different sliding opportunities. A Cozy Dome® offers anything from quiet alone time to a great place for a gaggle of kids to hang out. Saddle Spinners provide solo sensory fun while encouraging turn-taking.
Warm-weather play for North Dakota kids all year
For a community that has nearly tripled in just five years, it has been important to the Williston Parks & Recreation District to provide quality-of-life activities that meet everyone’s needs. And because the new population includes people from all over the country, the District wanted to offer a large variety of activities that are affordable to all residents.
Play throughout the seasons
When discussions for a new recreation center began, the building committee started making a list of all the items they wanted to include in the design. In addition to the standard basketball and tennis courts; free weights, cardio and group fitness areas; and meeting rooms, the committee wanted batting cages, a golf simulator, a competition-sized track and pool, and lots more including an indoor playground.
“We wanted to make the building as inclusive as possible… meaning we tried putting everything we could inside.” Playground Consultants at Dakota Playground
“From day one, there was no doubt in my mind that we would put a playground inside,” said Darin Krueger, executive director of the Williston Parks and Recreation District. “Kids will still play outside in the middle of winter. North Dakota kids are tough, but mom and dad don’t enjoy sitting outside in the cold. To have the option to come inside is nice.”
Collaboration Is key
Darin and the building committee collaborated with the building architects and our playground consultants at Dakota Playground, to create the unique play environment. Working off of CAD drawings of the recreation center, they realized they had an L-shaped area of about 2,200 feet in which to work.
They designed a PlayBooster® play structure with multiple deck heights, various playground slides, an assortment of climbers and activity panels. Even more, they included freestanding playground components like the Cozy Dome® and Saddle Spinners to extend the play value. Additionally, Dakota Playgrounds coordinated with the architects to ensure the color scheme worked with the design aesthetic of the building.
“The partnership between Landscape Structures and the architects was awesome.” Executive Director, Williston Parks and Recreation District
The playground design and colors were approved quickly, but the building committee waited to place the playground equipment order until the building was constructed so as to not run into any issues.
“Once the building was up, we quickly realized that the support struts from the nearby windows compromised the safety zone of the playground,” explained Dakota Playgrounds. “We were able to swap out two of the slides and then moved ahead with the order.”
Welcoming all abilities
To ensure that children of all abilities could use the indoor playground, Darin and his team pulled inclusive play advocates from the community to consult on the playground design. Two moms of children with special needs, who were working on bringing the first inclusive playground to Williston at the time, were able to provide insight on how to incorporate inclusive playground activities into the design.
“I promised these moms and the entire community that we would design our playgrounds to welcome kids of all abilities,” said Darin. “We want the best, and have a great relationship with our playground consultant so we can get creative with our designs. Dakota Playground was in on our vision for this playground, and Landscape Structures nailed it.”
A recreation destination
The 236,000-square-foot Williston Area Recreation Center (A.R.C.) opened its doors in March 2014 to rave reviews. There are many opportunities within the A.R.C. for kids and their families to be active, and the usage of the indoor playground has been unbelievable. By North Dakota standards, the winter of 2014-15 was mild but the playground was still busy all the time—proving an indoor playground was a smart decision.
“We have people that come from surrounding communities on the weekends to use the A.R.C.,” said Darin. “And we learned through surveys that the playground is one of the reasons. We thought outside the box a little with the idea for an indoor playground, and I’m happy that we did.”