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Things to Consider When Budgeting for a Playground

Posted by Churchich Content Team Content on April 27, 2021

When it comes to the development of children, playgrounds are much more than just a fun outing and an opportunity for much-need physical activity.

“In addition to physical well-being, playgrounds can provide essential experiences and development for children in areas as diverse as social skills, creativity, problem-solving, reasoning, and more,” writes Miracle Recreation, a leading provider of playground equipment. “The benefits that a simple trip to the playground can provide are often more profound and far-reaching than those that even the most sophisticated modern teaching-based technologies can provide.”

For as long as we have understood the value of playgrounds for our children’sHappy young woman in glasses standing near the window in office and working with blueprint development there has also been the constraint of working within budgetary restraints when designing and creating playground spaces.

In fact, the New York Times published a letter pleading for playground funding titled “Cry of the Children: They Need Playgrounds and Need Them Very Badly” … on July 2, 1910!

More than a century later, planners and organizers are asking what things should be considered when budgeting for a playground?

Rules of Thumb for Playground Budgets

For the quickest estimate in budgeting for your playground you can utilize an industry rule of thumb that says allocated $1,000 per child.

So, if your playground is modest and designed for 20 children to play at the same time, you can estimate approximately $20K, and if you want 50 children to play at the same time, you can estimate approximately $50K.

Of course, this back of the envelope estimating does not consider how basic or premium of a playground experience you want to create plus other issues ranging from cost of developing the site to amenities such as shade structures and benches.

The United States Access Board, as part of the Play Area Accessibility Guidelines, developed a little more complex formula:

  • Cost of Playground Equipment: (X) dollars
  • Cost of Installation: (.30X) dollars
  • Cost of Surfacing (.12X) dollars
  • Cost of Design Fees, Grading, Landscaping, and Other Expenses (.10X).
  • Total Project Cost or Budget: Add up the values above.

Under this formula, if you invested in playground equipment that was $30,000 then the total budget estimate would be $45,600 or the total of the equipment ($30,000) + installation ($9,000) + surfacing ($3,600) + other costs ($3,000).

Goldilocks & the Three bears Method of Playground Budgeting

Goldilocks (who certainly had a fun sense of adventure, but we do not encourage breaking and entering!) gives us another method to estimate playground budgets and that would be the “three bears” level of amenities.

Breaking down playground design into basic, standard and premium we can estimated budgets roughly as follows:

Basic Playground ($15K to $35K)

Equipment: 60 percent of the total budget

Surfacing: 10 percent

Installation: 25 percent

Shipping: 5 percent

Standard Playground ($35 to $90K)

Equipment: 40 percent of the total budget

Surfacing: 15 percent

Installation: 30 percent

Shade Structures: 10 percent

Shipping: 5 percent

Premium Playground ($90 to $200K)

Equipment: 30 percent of the total budget

Surfacing: 17 percent

Installation: 25 percent

Shade Structures: 10 percent

Splash Pad: 10 percent

Other Amenities: 5 percent

Shipping: 3 percent

Unlike Goldilocks’ experience, however, there not just one option that is “just right” but many unique factors to each project go into developing a playground budget

10 Things to Consider for Playground Budgets

When considering your playground budget, here are 10 things to consider:

1. Playground Shape, Size and Expected Use: This is one of the two most important things to consider when designing your playground. How big of an area do you want to make it? How many children can you accommodate? What sort of playground equipment do you want to invest in? Answer these questions and you will be on your way to designing the playground. Keep in mind, if you do not have the overall budget currently to meet your future needs, you could plan a phased approach and add equipment over time to your area.

2. Location, Location, Location: Your playground location will be the second most important part of your budget as site work is important to prep the area. Does the area need leveling? Are there drainage issues that need addressing? Will trees and/or rocks need to be removed? And do not forget the cost of permits and other issues relating to local zoning ordinances. Each location will have a different budget cost depending on the challenges present.

3. Age of Children: Before deciding on what playground equipment to purchase, identify what age children you will ideally be hosting at your playground and this will determine age-appropriate equipment.

4. Inclusive Play: When budgeting for your playground, make sure you have elements and design that encourages inclusive play for all.

5. Safety Surfacing: Children will spend a good amount of time playing on, in and around your playground’s surfacing so design it with safety in mind. Choices can range from inexpensive such as engineered wood fiber mulch to premium solutions such as synthetic turf and poured in-place safety surfacing. Cheaper up front costs for surfacing may result in higher maintenance costs year-by year.

6. Shade Structures: Protect your playground goers from the sun’s harmful UV rays with shade structures.

7. Amenities: If you consider shade structures an essential then other amenities can include such things as: benches, tables, message boards, signage, trash cans, drinking fountains, fencing and more.

8. Shipping: Figure shipping costs from the manufacturer to your location based on the equipment you want to order.

9. Installation: The size and scope of your playground will determine installation costs.

10. Landscaping: The final aesthetic step for many playgrounds is to add landscaping to the area.

Contact Churchich Recreation and Design today for help in designing and budgeting your playground in North Carolina and South Carolina.