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Published in Playground Magazine- May, 2013 – Click here to view original article
See photos of our Puerto Rico Salvation Army install in the Playground Portfolio.
When officials from The Salvation Army Eastern Territory decided to upgrade the playground equipment at eight of their youth camp properties and one large community worship center in Puerto Rico, they knew they needed to work with a company that understood the importance of safety, as well as the importance of play. “Our first priority is the safety of the children in our care so it was critical that the new play equipment meet our high standards in that area but we also wanted to put a strong emphasis on fun,” says Robert Jones, Assistant Risk Manager for the Eastern Territory. “We wanted the new playgrounds to be something different – we wanted to give the kids something that would really wow them.”
With these priorities in mind, Jones contacted Commercial Recreation Specialists (CRS) of Verona, Wis., a provider of Xccent Play, a line of play equipment that specializes in promoting active, non-scripted play. Their revolutionary, moving equipment with ultra-safe polymer hinges is like a kid magnet, attracting kids of all ages and abilities to play and work together. Their many independent pieces are combinable and allow for flexibility in layout to accommodate different age groups. These features were important to The Salvation Army. Each year thousands of children enjoy its summer camp programs and the playgrounds get a lot of use. “We may have up to a hundred kids playing at any one time,” says Jones. “It’s also important that the playground equipment caters to a broad age range—anywhere from 7 to 14 years old.”
To accommodate this diversity, CRS installed in each of the ten playgrounds a combination of Xccent’s Triax curved, three-post deck systems, which included fun slides, challenging climbers and intriguing rooftops. They also installed independent pieces such as the X-Wave 2, an innovative see-saw that attracts groups of children to “ride the wave,” or the Rock N’ Rider, a momentum-building, muscle-testing, boat-like rocker. Camp Swoneky, in Oregonia, Ohio, added additional play elements from Playland and SportsPlay to their order, as well as waterfront pieces to enhance their lake recreation experience. Because the youth camps are summer-oriented, timely installation of the playgrounds was another crucial factor. Knowing they had “a lot to do, in not a lot of time,” CRS Principal Rich Wills dedicated the project to meeting its June 15 deadline. “We had worked with CRS in the past and had confidence in them,” says Jones. “They came through, as usual. They coordinated the removal of the old equipment, helped us select our new playground pieces, and then installed them. They did this for ten playgrounds in two months’ time.”
So how do the children like the new playgrounds?
“They definitely had the ‘wow’ factor,” says Jones. “The kids love them. We had an unbelievably positive response.”
Contact us or call toll-free 877-896-8442 to discuss planning your next playground project!
CRS Helps Transform Stoughton’s Troll Beach to “Best of the Best”
CRS is again a proud recipient of the Wisconsin Parks and Recreation Association (WPRA) Outstanding Aquatics Facility Design Award. Together with the City of Stoughton Parks & Recreation Department, CRS’ team of aquatic play specialists won the 2012 award for helping to transform the city’s 52-year-old natural swimming pond into an award-winning water-based family entertainment center.
“Stoughton’s new aquatic facility is the best of the best,” says Steve Thompson, CEO of WPRA. The association’s 2,400 members represent the parks, recreation and therapeutic recreation industries throughout Wisconsin.
Two years ago, Stoughton’s swimming pond, then named Mandt Park Pool, was a declining “mud hole,” as locals affectionately called it. Competition from large regional water parks left little interest for what was once a prized community aquatic recreation facility. Last year, CRS helped change that.
In 2012, Stoughton brought in CRS to help them renovate the area and develop a Water-Based Family Entertainment Center, complete with themed site amenities and coordinating signage compatible with its new name, “Troll Beach.” With the addition of a commercial shade structure and aquatic inflatables including the 16’ Aquaglide Summit Express, Free Fall 6, the Wibit Splasher and AquaTrack, the community’s enthusiasm for the pond exploded. According to Troll Beach’s data, its attendance doubled from the year before and its revenue increased by 400 percent.
“Stoughton’s Troll Beach is a great example of how inflatable modules can immediately and actively revitalize a community’s water-based recreation,” says CRS President Ron Romens. “We’re excited to win the WPRA Outstanding Aquatic Facility award with Stoughton. It is an honor being involved with an award winning facility once again.”
Check out this video to hear from some of our successful waterfront customers.
To learn more about transforming your location into a winning attraction, click here or call us at 877-896-8442 to start planning your next project!]]>
CRS Designs & Builds Customized Courses for Colorado YMCA Centers
When directors at YMCA of the Rockies began thinking about upgrades to their Colorado family vacation and conference centers at Estes Park and Snow Mountain Ranch, they knew the 1960s-era miniature golf courses would have to be a big part of the plan.
According to Julie Watkins, who serves as vice president for the association’s advancement, “as a non-profit organization, we were going into a capital campaign to raise funds for various projects. Our mini golf courses were a high priority because of their appeal to our guests.”
Given the unique geographical characteristics of the two different locations and the extreme weather constraints, such a project presented big challenges.
That’s when Commercial Recreation Specialists (CRS) of Verona, Wisconsin first stepped up to the green. CRS worked with the centers from the beginning to determine a realistic budget, develop custom theming that enhanced each location’s unique character, and generate professional renderings to garner interest in and financial support of the capital campaign. “Working with CRS was a smooth process,” says Watkins. “We provided a vision and they made it happen.”
CRS and YMCA of the Rockies teamed together to develop detailed plans for two custom-themed, ADA-approved, 27-hole miniature golf courses, specifically designed to fit the topography and personality of each location. Each center’s course included a 9-hole toddler course with bigger cups and easier obstacles, and a more challenging 18-hole course for older children and adults.
After plans were finalized and funding approved, CRS completed the courses in just three weeks for each location—Estes Park Center in May and Snow Mountain Ranch in June of last year. “At 9000 feet in elevation, they have long winters and short summers,” says CRS principal Rich Wills. “We had to coordinate the installation between weather concerns and adjust the construction materials to accommodate dramatic temperature changes.”
And how do YMCA guests like the new courses? “They love them,” says Estes Park grounds maintenance supervisor Kelly Wilkerson. “Last summer our guests played 41,000 rounds in three months. That’s a lot of golf!”
The new courses have done more than bring adventure to guests—they are helping YMCA of the Rockies fulfill one of its major goals, that of bringing families together. “Three-year-olds to 90-year-olds can play these courses,” says Wilkerson. “Families are spending time together and they come back day after day.”
To learn more about our Custom Adventure-Style Miniature Golf Courses, click here or call us at 877-896-8442 to start planning your next project!]]>
The inflatable obstacle course was added in 2011. The Wibit product line consists of interlocking and stand-alone modules made of PVC material and stainless steel parts designed to withstand all climates and bodies of water, according to the German manufacturer. In Ridgewood, the Wibit also withstood scrutiny prior to its purchase and installation. The city council and general public voiced concerns about the Wibit’s suitability, ranging from aesthetics to safety and maintenance issues. After all, Graydon Pool is essentially a rustic swimming hole in a bucolic setting right in the center of town. Because of the pool’s visibility from the street, no one wanted to plop something in the water that would be “too distracting or carnival-like,” said Rich Wills, vice president of Commercial Recreation Specialists (CRS), the Verona, Wis.-based company that supplied the Wibit. CRS addressed the concerns in a series of meetings over six months.
It hasn’t been bad for business at Graydon Pool. “The colors alone on the Wibit attract the younger kids,” Cronin said. Prior to the Wibit’s unveiling, the parks and recreation department stoked curiosity with a “teaser” marketing campaign, deploying neon-green posters and T-shirts that simply said “Wibit.” Of course, people wondered what the heck a Wibit was, and before long, they found out. The line consists of 24 linkable products. Graydon Pool features the Aquatrack, a preconfigured obstacle course measuring 54 feet long. Swimmers of all ages use different muscle groups, balance and agility to negotiate each element.
“One of the benefits of this product is most kids are doing a lot of passive recreation—sitting in front of laptops and tablets. With the Wibit, kids are getting exercise and don’t recognize it,” Wills said. “It’s like a playground on water.” The floating device is anchored, but there’s some play in the anchor lines, “so you have to maintain your balance as you stand,” he added. “Your core strength is being utilized the whole time you’re on the product. It’s possible to lose your grip or balance and fall into the water, a thrill that kids compare to the TV show ‘Wipe Out’, though there are no high-impact falls”, Wills said.
Choosing the right inflatable pool products depends on pool dimension, water depth and available staffing. Maintenance is not a huge chore, but at the end of the season, the products must be deflated, treated with UV protectant and stored indoors in containers. Failure to follow these instructions could lead to an unpleasant surprise come the following season, as rodents like to chew on the material. “If you just take it and put it in a shed, you’ll end up with a Swiss cheese-looking product,” Wills warned. “It’s important to protect the investment by packing it up and putting it away properly.”
The Aquatrack cost $13,000 and is expected to last 10 years, yielding a return on investment after two or three years of ownership through increased membership, day pass and concessions sales.
“When facilities put something like this in, one of the objectives is to keep guests on the premises. If people are having a good time, they’ll stay longer and hopefully spend a few more dollars,” Wills said. Wibit products lend themselves to creative programming, from birthday parties to planned or spontaneous competitions. “Each facility has the ability to pull together almost a water Olympics,” Wills said.
Graydon Pool’s Wibit is available for free play (users must pass a deep water swim test), but at certain times, patrons are required to sign up, and sign-up sheets fill quickly. The Wibit 50-Meter Splash generated a lot of community interest and a satisfying turnout. It will be the first of many annual relay and community Wibit events at throughout the coming seasons.
To learn more about transforming your location into a winning attraction, click here or call us at 877-896-8442 to start planning your next project!
Click here for the official article in Recreation Management.]]>
Aquatic Centers Win Big with New Category in Water Play
When CRS began providing modular inflatable challenge courses to YMCAs, universities, day camps, municipalities and other commercial pools, they knew patrons would have tons of fun with them. What they didn’t predict was how wildly popular this new category of aquatic play would become and the innovative ways clients would use it to achieve positive results.
“Our inflatable challenge course systems are designed to revitalize active recreation in the water,” says CRS President Ron Romens. “These are modular, sealed-air pieces that, when connected, create an exciting challenge course for running, jumping and climbing. They create a continuous flow of motion, thus encouraging patrons of all ages to move more and play longer. What we’ve found is both outdoor waterfronts and indoor pools are successfully working them into their programs, often in new ways we didn’t even envision.”
The results of these challenge courses have been phenomenal, with customers raving that they are attracting more patrons, generating excitement, revitalizing programming and increasing revenue. In addition, CRS works with a number of top manufacturers, including Wibit and Aquaglide, to create customized systems that fit a customer’s needs and budget.
The Houstonian Hotel, Club and Spa is a prime example of this success. This urban resort in Houston is enjoyed by water enthusiasts of all ages. Last spring it added a Wibit AquaTrack to its outdoor pool program. Aquatics Director Erica Meyer says they couldn’t be happier.
“It’s brought loads of fun for a broad range of people,” says Meyer. “Our senior citizens have even played on it. It’s fun no matter how you set it up. We change the order of the pieces and people will come back and say ‘what’s different?’ It’s like a whole new course.”
For the new YMCA at Pabst Farms in Oconomowoc, Wis, the inflatable challenge course has been a big draw for families and the “tween” crowd. They offer it in their indoor pool every weekend, on days off from school and in the summer for day camp.
“We bought the Wibit AquaTrack and three additional pieces,” says Aquatic Director Peg Loomis. “Our main goal was to attract the 8 to 12-year-old crowd. Friday nights have been hugely successful for this. And Saturday and Sunday afternoons have become family time. It’s really fun for families—they do love to compete against one other!”
At the municipal Graydon Pool in Ridgewood, N.J., water enthusiasts are taking inflatable challenge course competition to a whole new level. Just a few years ago this community considered plowing under its 2.6-acre natural swimming pond, for a more modern option—a concrete pool. Instead they hired CRS to install a Wibit AquaTrack and partnered with them in hosting a competitive challenge course relay. The event included musical entertainment, a cook out, and prizes worth up to $200.
The fun of the new challenge course has renewed excitement for families at Graydon Pool and the Splash event was a great success. Event Coordinator Sean Martyn says it will be the first of many community events throughout their coming seasons.
Gina De Pamphilis, aquatics coordinator of The Briar Club in Houston, was recently awarded first place for their break-through ideas using modular inflatables at the Club Managers Association of America annual convention. She showcased how The Briar Club branded various pieces to build on their corporate brand, while introducing new and exciting activities that enhance members’ experience.
“The Wibit products have created an opportunity for The Briar Club to diversify our traditional pools”, says De Pamphilis. “We use the Wibit products for a variety of club events and parties such as Moonlight Madness, Briar Island Challenge, and spring and summer holiday events. We use the AquaTrack, or better known as Briar Island, in our lap pool and the trampoline, aka Briar Key, in our recreation pool. For each event we set up and break down all the pieces; it is very easy to do so and not time consuming. The Wibit products have been a great addition to the club.”
To learn more about our Modular Challeng Course Inflatables, click here or call us at 877-896-8442 to start planning your next project!
Check out this video to hear from some of our successful waterfront customers.