How One Church Playground is Bringing People Together Through Play

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There is a lot of planning and preparation that goes into every playground. Sometimes you can design, ship, and install a playground project within one year, but others need more attention to detail and development. That’s the case for the new church playground at Sage Hills Church in Wenatchee, WA.

Read on and learn how taking the time to get the details right transforms an ordinary church playground into an extraordinary place to play.

Planning for Play

The idea to add a playground to the Sage Hills Church campus was in the works for several years. Church officials began working toward this goal in 2018. For three years, church leaders worked with Great Western Recreation and GameTime to create the playground of their dreams.

“The dream was to make an awesome playground and bring something to the community that kids and families can be excited about,” said Geoff Smith, Sage Hills Church Executive Pastor.

The new playground at Sage Hills Church is a great place for friends and family to play

The design process continued throughout 2019. GameTime collaborated with church officials and local contractors to develop drawings and renderings of the new playground. Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, GameTime broke ground in 2020 and finished the installation in 2021.

After years of hard work, the Sage Hills Church playground is open to the public.

Collaboration is Key for a Great Place to Play

Lewis Painter of Great Western Recreation was part of the collaborative effort that helped the playground project come to life. "The thing I was most impressed with was the church's focus on creating a space that was engaging for all,” says Painter. “They were sure to include elements that appealed to the 2-5 age group and then added a netted play area for dynamic challenges suited for the older age group."

Great Western Recreation is GameTime’s exclusive representative in Washington. For nearly 60 years, they’ve focused on creating great places to play, and it all begins with a collaborative approach to design.

“We worked closely with Sage Hills to share ideas and offer suggestions to help bring their vision to life,” shared Painter. "That was an awesome thing to be a part of."

A Custom-Themed Church Playground

Considering the church’s location, the design team for this project came up with a Pacific Northwest theme for the playground. The kids’ wing of the church was already adventure-themed, with trailheads and maps lining the walls, and the new playground leaned into that motif.

Landmark Design, GameTime’s custom play division, developed the themed elements. Throughout the playground, you’ll see multiple custom play elements that make you feel like you’re walking along a river in British Columbia. Younger kids can enjoy the canoe climbers and fish head stepping stones, while the older kids jog back and forth on the rope bridges suspended over the “river.”

A girl "catches a fish in the river" that flows through the custom playground at Sage Hills Church

“The theme lends itself to spark imagination and allows kids to lose a sense of where they are and enter into role play games with each other and strengthen relationships within their peer groups,” said Painter.

Additionally, the unique surfacing pattern and combination of synthetic turf and poured-in-place rubber allow the play area to really come to life. “This created a natural-feeling landscape that makes it feel like you really are in a different place, and it adds a richness to the playground,” said Painter.

Play for All Ages

Families in the Sage Hills congregation have children ranging in age from infants to middle school, so church officials wanted to add a playground that could accommodate children of any age.

“There’s a toddler area and another section that graduates into something more geared toward elementary school-aged kids,” said Smith. “Even past that, there are areas that fifth and sixth graders would have a great time playing and climbing on.”

The playground tower is an exciting place for children to climb and explore

The playground features many essential play elements. One of the most popular is a 12-foot playground tower that gives children a unique perspective on the world below. Another is the many net climbers and net tunnels that are both fun and challenging. “The dynamic net climbers are challenging and imaginative and bring kids of all ages together, which is exactly what the church wanted to accomplish,” said Painter.

“It’s been a significant encouragement to our team, to our staff, just walking by and seeing [the playground] being used],” said Smith. “People are lined up at 8 a.m. to jump on the playground and let their kids get after it, so it’s just been cool to see this come to fruition.”

Investing in the Future

Before embarking on this custom playground project, the pastor of Sage Hills Church visited several churches around the country. Many of these church facilities were in a state of decline. The Sage Hills congregation banded together to prevent the same thing on their church campus.

The church launched a campaign called “Not On Our Watch.” The general philosophy behind the campaign was that Sage Hills should be a proactive, driving force affecting its community.

“We wanted to invest in the future of this church, in the future of this community, and make an effort to bring younger families into the Sage Hills community,” said Smith. “To do this, we had to be creative and think of new ways to bring people onto our property.”

An integral part of any church community is its facilities. The Not On Our Watch campaign included a major renovation to the church campus. The new playground was central to this effort as a place for young families to come together and play.

Along with the playground, the church added a cafe, aptly named Play-Grounds Cafe. The Cafe provides a space for families to grab a cup of coffee and hang out with other families while their children play.

Creative Play Concepts for Your Congregation

Church playgrounds are an excellent way to bring people together and encourage fun, outdoor activity for all ages. With a custom design, like the playground at Sage Hills Church, congregations can create a one-of-a-kind play experience as unique as the community they serve. And through a collaborative design-build process, GameTime ensures every element of your vision comes to life.

If you’d like to bring fun and creative play spaces to your church, contact the GameTime representative in your neighborhood today.