Destination Playground or Bust

A playground design journey with iconic results

Destination Playground or Bust

Maple Grove Central Park

Maple Grove, Minn.

When Chuck Stifter, ‎director of parks and recreation for the City of Maple Grove, initially reached out to Flagship Recreation, exclusive distributer of Landscape Structures playground equipment in the Twin Cities, to begin the design process of a new playground for Maple Grove Central Park, he said he wanted to push the limits of conventional playground design and create an iconic, destination playground in this rapidly developing community.

“I really pushed the design team to go beyond what’s considered to be standard in parks. Our intent was to build something that was dynamic and focused on innovative and creative play,” Chuck explained. “We wanted this playground to be unique to Maple Grove.” 

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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Iconic, Free-Flowing Play Opportunities

The primary mission the Maple Grove Central Park planning committee laid out at the start of the project was to create a park that served a diverse group of all ages and abilities and also provided a multitude of free-flowing play opportunities with enough space to accommodate a large number of people.

“All of these considerations led us to push on ‘destination’ features as a critical element in our park planning and development,” Chuck noted.

“All of these considerations led us to push on ‘destination’ features as a critical element in our park planning and development,” Chuck Stifter director of parks and recreation, City of Maple Grove

To meet the demand for a play destination and space that accommodated many, the playground was divided into a series of pods—or zones—to focus on creative, innovative play.

“We didn’t want to over program and over-literalize the spaces within the park,” said Julie Aldrich, landscape architect consultant for the City of Maple Grove. “We really wanted to keep the opportunities for play free-flowing.”

The result of a three-year design effort with Maple Grove’s Central Park planning committee, Flagship Recreation and Landscape Structures is a playground that truly represents Maple Grove’s mission to change the way the community experiences their local park.

“Parks are so often just built for kids. However as a sculptural, artful piece, you can spend time at this playground—even if you’re not using it to play—and simply enjoy the view,” explained Chuck.

Looking out at the finished playground, a futuristic titanium turret gleams in the distance towering 24-feet above the playground. One might imagine this structure as an air traffic control tower directing the little bodies in motion below. In reality, it’s a playground tower in the middle of Maple Grove’s new Central Park and everything surrounding it was custom-designed to create a play environment that has become an exceptionally popular destination.

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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Each play element in the park unites futuristic design with the natural topography of the environment to present a truly unique play experience. Included in this aesthetically pleasing, yet kid-approved play space, you’ll find a custom-designed net climber crab trap; a futuristic, tower play structure with stacked tunnel slides and interior climbing nets; a Weevos® play system with playground slides, climbers and bridges to include kids ages 2 to 5 on the fun; a Cozy Dome® for kids to escape the hustle and bustle of a busy playground; custom mushroom-shape shade structures where you can take refuge from the sun; and a Lunar Blast® Net Climber.

Adding sculptural appeal to the Central Park play environment, you’ll also see a titanium tire swing that in any other setting could double as an interactive art installation hovering over a gently sloping, nature-inspired play surface. To further mirror the earthy terrain, the park incorporates concrete rock climbing walls, molded from actual rock formations, along the perimeter of the play environment which encourage kids to Play Naturally™ while challenging their physical fitness and imagination.

Arriving by the Busload

“A play space like Central Park doesn’t come out of nowhere—it’s a product of hard work and attention to detail,” explains Landscape Structures consultant, Chris DesRoches. “As a result, there’s a lot of different things for kids to do here and when they come back it’s different every time.”

“There's a lot of different things for kids to do here and when they come back it's different every time,”Chris DesRoches Landscape Structures consultant

And come back they did. Since officially opening in November 2015, the park has been extremely popular with the residents of Maple Grove, young and old, as well as visitors who are coming from across the metro area by the busload.

“We’re very proud of what we’ve accomplished here,” said Chuck. “The playground is such an essential piece of our larger park plan. We’re excited its here."