February 9, 2021
Meet the 19 new and wonderous playspaces coming to Southeast Michigan and Western New York, supported by the Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Foundation.
Since 2018, the Built to Play initiative, supported by the Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Foundation, has served as a key partner in the expansion of Play Everywhere — our playspace concept that turns everyday spaces into playspaces. These creative installations give kids and families opportunities to play where they already spend time together.
In 2020, we partnered together again to hold the Play Everywhere Design Challenge. The 19 new, winning communities join the previous 44 Play Everywhere projects in Southeast Michigan and Western New York counties.
The 2020 Challenge added a new element: each community that applied to the program partnered with a design partner — artists, landscape architects, designers and more — to think boldly about how a Play Everywhere installation could inspire their community’s kids and families to play.
The winners met the challenge with new installations that will inspire kids to become future archeologists, run and crawl through mud, make music on jumbo-sized instruments and play while waiting at the bus stop.
Each of the winners expressed the need for flexible play options in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. They are working to meet local safety guidelines as they plan, install, activate and play upon their new playspaces.
Let’s check out the plans and designs from all of the 2020 Play Everywhere Design Challenge winners in Michigan and New York!
Mount Clemens, Michigan
Mount Clemens has seen years of disinvestment as families moved into more affluent areas, leaving the area in need, especially for family resources like play. Advancing Macomb was formed to help build a non-profit infrastructure to support Macomb counties disinvested communities.
“Cascade in the Shade” will build a water-based play installation in a park area that is under-resourced and currently not in use. The design will draw on themes of imagination, innovation for the future and the convening force of water.
Chelsea is a hub for the surrounding rural townships in Western Washtenaw County. Along with over 5,400 residents, Chelsea welcomes over 3,800 daily commuters from outside the city and thousands of visitors each year. The City of Chelsea considers recreational opportunities essential to promoting physical, mental and community health.
Park(ing) Places will feature modular design pieces that can be easily installed, moved and reinstalled alongside curbs throughout downtown Chelsea. The parklets are designed to sit flush to curbs and will feature interactive and playful opportunities for kids and families.
Madison Heights, Michigan
Madison Heights’ Playful Tranquility project will convert a grassy space next to the Madison Heights Public Library into a creative playspace with an adjoining pathway that leads to a tranquility center.
The tranquility center will be a place for presentations, puppet shows and more. The space’s design team will also incorporate musical instruments, a small stage, a rainbow walking path, climbable rocks and a rotating art installation through a partnership with the Madison Heights Arts Board.
Romulus recognizes the need for playspaces is paramount, especially since the presence of the Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport (with coinciding noise pollution and vehicle traffic) has resulted in an uneven distribution of housing and recreational facilities throughout the community.
Opportunity Park will turn an 11.5 acre swath of land into a playspace with biking and walking paths, climbing structures, “natural” play components (such as fabricated tree stumps) and fitness equipment.
Ann Arbor, Michigan
Community Action Network (CAN) operates within Washtenaw County, primarily with affordable housing communities. CAN partners with kids and families from neighborhoods facing disinvestment to build better futures for residents and stronger communities where they live.
Their project, Pat Byrd Playscape, will include a basketball court, colorful and educational stations (for math, geography, science and English), garden beds, a pavilion, climbing equipment and an outdoor screen for movies.
Community Foundation of Monroe County (CFMC) is a non-profit with the mission to create a place where everyone has the opportunity to thrive. Their project will redesign an existing community garden into Sharing Garden, with a focus on accessibility, functionality and fun for kids and families.
Visitors will have an opportunity to grow their own food, learn about the arts and engage in musical play.
NW Goldberg Cares (NWGC) is a community development corporation located in the heart of Detroit’s NW Goldberg neighborhood. NWGC aims to improve the lives of residents in the predominantly Black community by incubating local businesses and ensuring a family-friendly neighborhood.
NWGC’s “REST. PLAY. RIDE.” will transform a bus stop into a playful oasis.
The refurbished bus stop’s color, interactivity and playful options will create all-new opportunities for families and kids to play while waiting for the bus.
Port Huron, Michigan
The Port Huron Housing Commission (PHHC) is a municipal agency that aims provide housing assistance to those who need it, to support families and create economic self-sufficiency. Their installation, Harmony Place, will feature large musical instruments as well as a stage, bringing families together and introducing live music into kids’ lives.
The stage will also be used for all kinds of events, such as performances, reading groups and educational sessions and workshops provided by local partners in the community.
Rochester, New York
The University of Rochester, through it’s 540WMain initiative, will build ROCket to Imagination, a playspace to help kids imagine pathways to opportunities through play, their own curiosity and accessible design. The main feature is a wooden rocket structure— a cozy hideaway designed for kids of any age and ability.
Within the rocket, kids will find shelves of books and outside, a wheelchair accessible maze featuring art painted by kids and families of Rochester’s 19th Ward.
Almond, New York
AACSA works to address health and safety through sports by maintaining local parks, managing sports programming and setting local park policy. Together with designers Julia Jamrozik and Coryn Kempster, four-time winners of past Play Everywhere challenges, the AACSA will build Prisms: a series of triangular foam blocks encouraging a “loose parts” style of creative play.
Kids will be able to use the blocks for sitting, sliding, climbing, or building. Light enough to be manipulated, but large enough to require cooperation in moving, Prisms blocks will foster creative, cooperative and imaginative play.
Rochester Public Library’s Secret Room will bring a sense of whimsy and magic to the library’s Children’s Center. Kids will play in the room’s creative cubbies, giant book sculpture and a massive Scrabble®-style wall— all with a goal of promoting the early literacy skills kids need throughout their learning lives.
Chautauqua, New York
Chautauqua Institution is bringing adventure and some muddy fun to its broad slate of education, recreation and family-friendly programming. Kids and families will be challenged to complete 8-10 obstacles in a fun, positive and safe environment.
They’ll face tire climbing, agilities work, ladder walls and other obstacles that will be designed by Chautauqua residents.
Houghton, New York
Houghton College’s campus helps build bridges and solidify relationships between the college’s students and the community. To help further those intergenerational relationships, the college will build its “KidsZone” at the Kerr-Pegula Athletic Complex (KPAC).
Featuring rock-climbing, a sandbox and a surface suitable for Pickleball, Foursquare, or even classic hopscotch, KPAC KidsZone seeks to inspire kids to dream big and pursue higher education, all while they play.
Perry, New York
Partnered with Play Everywhere Challenge veterans Julia Jamrozik and Coryn Kempster, PMSA is building Serpent Mound, a massive and striking mound of soft, squishy surfacing where, legend has it, the Silver Lake Serpent lurks.
While we may never know if Silver Lake’s mythical creature truly does dwell within, we do know that the mound’s rubber surfacing and various zones for bouncing, sliding and climbing should delight Perry’s kids and families.
Randolph, New York
Located at Randolph’s Weeden Park, RACDC will transform aging, neglected tennis courts into archeological excavation sites, so kids can pretend to be archaeologists searching for fossils.
Randolph’s history includes the discovery of mammoth bones, so these dig sites will not only spark kids’ imaginations, but share in the history of the town.
East Aurora, New York
The ROC is partnering with industrial designer Kenny Arnold to create “Play Path”, a walkable and bikable area for exploration, learning and play.
Visitors will enjoy various stations for activities and self-expression by bird-watching, playing music, gardening, building structures or putting on performances.
Springville, New York
SCA is a non-profit, arts center that engages the community with performances and exhibitions, alongside education and arts programming.
Their Art Mini-Park will surprise and delight passerby that veer from the sidewalk with massive chimes, slates for painting with water and chalk, art installations and more.
The GIANT Room is a hub for kids to discover new interests, ideate challenges, get messy and make their imaginations reality. In partnership with non-profit Generation Two (G2), their project will distribute kits that encourage learning, creativity, discovery and illuminate cultural history.
Each kit will be filled with materials for arts, crafts and engineering that will be distributed in cafes, laundromats and barber shops — everyday places that usually don’t have opportunities to play.
Warsaw, New York
From Warsaw’s Wyoming County Youth Bureau, Wyoming Path will transform existing sidewalks into a pathway for kids to creatively get moving.
Kids will walk and play on painted mazes, hopscotch areas and creative lines alongside 15 new murals showcasing Wyoming County’s unique history and community.
The Built to Play Initiative answers a need identified in the Aspen Institute Sports & Society Program’s “State of Play” assessment, as well as, research conducted by KABOOM!: while play is an essential factor in kids’ development, there are far too many kids who lack opportunities for great, safe spaces to play. Especially in rural and low-income neighborhoods.
“Play Everywhere projects are all about meeting kids and families where they are by infusing play into every corner of the community,” said Lysa Ratliff, CEO of KABOOM!.
“Spaces where kids can run, jump, interact and explore are essential for kids’ health and wellbeing, particularly in neighborhoods that otherwise lack safe spaces for recreation and play.”
Watch a video about Play Everywhere or browse completed Play Everywhere projects in our gallery.
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In the aftermath of an EF5 tornado in Oklahoma, KABOOM! built 5 playgrounds and awarded two Imagination Playground™ sets.
October 20, 2021
February 2, 2023
Join us this Black History Month as we acknowledge and celebrate the enduring contributions of Black leaders that create stronger communities and opportunities where Black children can experience joy and the many benefits of play and recreation.