Stretch Your Budget

8/26/14 - Planning Tips
Who doesn't want to stretch their dollar further? If you have been trusted by your community or board to investigate the installation of a new playground or park space, you have been handed a challenging task. Even the savviest shoppers can find purchasing a playground difficult. How do you know you are really getting the best deal? What items on a playground offer the most value? Which equipment is worth spending a little more on? We spoke with our playground design team to come up with a list of ways you can stretch the budget for your new playground.

#1 Be Willing to Compromise

Ultimately, custom playground design is about offering you, the customer, the best possible experience. Your playground specialist is tied into a network of product specialists and project managers who stay up to date on what items are on sale, overstocked or clearanced out. Due to the huge menu of items available to BYO through various vendors, there is a good chance you won't see everything just browsing our site or Resource Guide. Be open to suggestions. If there is one item that you really want, your designer can save you money by switching around components to cherry pick the best deals for shipping. It is important to understand that your bottom line savings might not be determined by the individual price tag on your equipment.

#2 Buy One Brand

The fewer shipments your playground requires the less expensive your overall cost will be. Selecting products from one manufacturer eliminates the need to send multiple shipments from different locations. When working with your playground specialist they can direct you to browse independent play items that come from the same manufacturer that is providing your main structure. This also ensures that any custom colors you select will match exactly.

#3 Think about Play Value

"Play value" is a term used to describe how much play a piece of equipment offers. This can be based on how many children can use it at one time, how accessible the equipment is and how large of an age range it appeals to. To break down play value and cost, let's look at one of our most popular items: Commercial Swing Sets.

There are several varieties of swing sets available with sleek and stylish designs. Not surprisingly, the extra features bring cost up pretty quickly but does the play value increase with the price tag? Not always. On occasion space restrictions may require you to select a specific style of swing set frame for your playground but overall, the less expensive options are not only more cost effective but maybe more fun than their more stylish counterparts.

For example, you can get a 1 bay (two seat) heavy duty galvanized steel swing with an 8' height for just under $1000* or a 1 bay 8' arch swing in the color of your choice for about $1400. You could also purchase a 10' version of the heavy duty swing for about $100 more than the 8' version. The arch swing isn't even available at that height but if your want a similar look, the powder coated version of the heavy duty swing at a 10' height is approximately $1600. Given that 10' swings offer a bigger thrill and are more appealing to older children, it is probably wiser to select the taller swing sets when possible and focus more on the fun you're buying rather than the overall style.

Need more reasons to choose the simpler style? The 3 legged style of the heavy duty swings is more stable and much simpler to install than either the arch or single post swings.

#4 Go Easy on the Theme

Yes, themed playgrounds are cool, in fact they are awesome. However, they can also double or sometimes even triple the cost of your playground when you allow them to limit the types of equipment you are able to choose. Instead of selecting Natural Climbing Boulders, which can run up to almost $20,000, you could select a Sectional Rock Wall in a natural color like warm granite with up to 7 sections at just under $8,000. You could also purchase a Geo Dome, Wave Climber, Bubble Wall and Camel Back Climber for about $10,000. You might not have room for all those different climbers on your playground but the point is, don't let your vision come before fun. Any one of these components offers a lot of play value for a fraction of the cost. If you do want to have a theme shop smart and consider bolstering it with the color options on your equipment and surfacing.

#5 Prioritize

There are any number of limitations on your potential playground from budget concerns to special concerns. Think about what is most important to the children in your community. What types of equipment do you think they would use the most? What are their average ages? Try to get an idea of what the other members of your board or committee are envisioning and iron out a rough wish list of the features they picture on your playground. In keeping with our first tip, try to keep an open mind. It's better to say that you are looking for more movement activities or climbing activities than it is to compile a full on must have list.

Hopefully, this list has helped you find some direction on how you can make your budget do more. While not a list of the best ‘deals' or least expensive options for independent play (prices change frequently so if we published such a list, it would probably be out of date in just a few weeks) we hope that it has given you tools to use as you approach the design process. We also hope that you remember that it's okay to splurge on really cool equipment if you can and that smart shopping is a tool to help you put the most possible fun into your new playground.

*All prices are estimates based on product costs at the time this article was published.
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