Playful City USA

Out of the box

When you look at a cardboard box, what do you see? Many adults simply see garbage or a storage item. If you ask a child, they might see a fort, a rocket ship, a kitchen, a musical instrument or a new pet. The ability to look at an object or space and turn it into something fun is a skill kids excel at. Growing older, sometimes it is easy to forget the power of “out of the box” thinking. Sometimes, building a playground requires a whole lot of creativity. One Playful City USA community embraced the power of creative thinking to open a play space that is one of a kind!

The community of Spearfish, South Dakota, was faced with an abandoned big-box store. A former shopping center for residents of Spearfish, the abandoned store had turned into an unsightly facility with an uncertain future. Abandoned big-box stores or “ghost-boxes” can leave cities struggling to find ways to bring life back and use back into the shell of a building. Law Professor Sarah Schindler, from the University of Maine, warns that an abandoned building of such a large size can cause reduced property values, loss of tax revenue, environmental problems and a decrease in social capital for the city.

Rather than demolish the building, city officials from Spearfish decided to take action. After careful planning and brainstorming, the Rec & Aquatics Center was built inside the abandoned store. The facility now gives residents of all ages access to six lanes of indoor walking/jogging lanes, two multi-use courts for basketball, volleyball, tennis and soccer; group fitness and cycling area, cardio and strength training equipment, batting cages, indoor archery and golf, roller skating, and youth play area for age 6 months to 7 years! The outdoor water park includes three waterslides, a lazy river, zero-depth pool with spray features, a splash pad, lap pool, deep pool, rock wall and adventure walk. The entire waterpark facility is ADA compliant. This one of a kind facility now gives over 10,000 residents access to play.

This Playful City USA community put play first and now proudly operates a facility that encourages personal growth, physical fitness and social development in a safe and friendly environment. All cities can benefit from taking Spearfish’s initiative and start thinking more like a kid!

Photos courtesy of Spearfish Rec & Aquatics Center