If you’ve ever been charged with constructing a playground for a childcare center or public space, you’ve likely realized that there are quite a few factors at play. Deciding what physical space to use, what age ranges you are targeting, the abilities of the children who will use it, and what structures you think will work best in your environment. Once you’ve sat down and ironed that out with key stakeholders, the last piece is often the biggest and the most stressful: How much is it going to cost?
We get dozens of calls every month from early childhood educators who don’t know where to start with budgeting for a new or refurbished playground. With so many factors involved, educators seek experts like Kaplan Early Learning Company to ease this burden and make the shopping process easy. Our Playground department is here to help, and assists hundreds of organizations like yours every year as they plan, install and maintain playgrounds in every shape, size, and color.
Read on for our team’s top resources to help you budget for your next playground project.
Average price of a playground
All playground pricing is based on the square footage of your space. Small playgrounds are defined as 900 square feet or less. Medium sized playgrounds are 900 to 1,800 square feet, and large playgrounds are defined as anything greater than 1,800 square feet.
As a general rule, small playgrounds cost between $10,000 and $30,000. Medium sized playgrounds will cost $30,000 to $75,000, and large playgrounds cost $75,000 to $100,000. Those estimates include equipment, surfacing, and installation.
Costs are based on the type of equipment, scope of the project, and the location.
What drives up the cost of playgrounds?
Besides the sheer size of a playground space, amenities are one factor that can drive up cost. These include shade structures, musical instruments, art and gardening stations, bouncers, climbers, and more.
The first factor is your state’s licensing requirements.
Each state and locality has guidelines that govern the safety and developmental appropriateness. Kaplan regularly works within each state’s requirements in the design and installation of playgrounds. We recommend first visiting the website of your local state agency that governs educational playground environments.
Storage is another reason that your budget may increase.
If the playground equipment arrives before your site is fully prepared (including permits, installing sidewalks, lighting, grading, drainage), it must be stored until installation begins.
Surfacing issues also drive up the cost.
In our experience, 75 percent of playground injuries are a result of a poorly maintained playground surface. You can quickly see costs go up if your space needs excavation, drainage, sub-surfacing, and additional containment.
Don’t forget costs once the project is complete!
Maintenance is done at the customer’s expense, barring any issues covered by the warranty (read below for warranty info!). Your playground vendor should leave you with a checklist of all basic maintenance needs.
What drives down the cost of playgrounds?
The biggest way to save money on your playground installation is to do some of the construction yourself. If you or someone with the skills and equipment is able, disassembling existing playground equipment and hauling it away will save money on your playground project.
Site preparation is another way to cut costs.
Start by leveling the site. Unless your playground design has allowed for grading differences, all inclines greater than 1-2% should be leveled before construction begins.
Next, mark underground utilities. Contact your local utilities companies (electric, water, gas) to see if they can help you with that.
Finally, assess the drainage of the playground site. If you can ensure you have appropriate drainage, that will lead to long-term savings as water issues can damage the surfacing.
The DIY method is not for everyone, and most of the installations at Kaplan are turn-key solutions, which means we take care of all the removal of existing equipment, installation, and disposal of any trash created during the project. If you want more of a DIY approach to your project, be sure to mention this at the beginning of your vendor consultation so they can best support you.
Community organization can also help with costs.
We recommend that centers work with their local community to form committees to help with the organization, fundraising, design, child development and education, maintenance, and public relations. Through this process, you can look for volunteers and parents to help prepare the site and organize a community build or ground maintenance days.
Finally, think of your playground as an advertising vehicle!
Offer free advertising to local companies that donate to the project. Signs or logos can be displayed during the build and around the completed playground, thanking them for donated materials or services.
Are playgrounds covered by a warranty?
Yes. Any nationally recognized playground vendor will offer warranties. At Kaplan, we offer a 1-year warranty for the labor, which covers any issues caused by the installation process (outside of normal wear and tear).
The maker of the playground equipment will also offer warranties on the equipment itself. Your playground rep will be able to walk you through each piece of equipment’s warranty.
Planning for a playground installation is a huge task. We know that most educators do not have extra time to spend on the many details required to pull it off, which is why we offer turn-key solutions to playground budgeting, design, planning, and installation. When you begin to formulate your budget, remember to account for those unforeseen costs, such as drainage issues, that could drive up your expenses. Look for vendor partners who will support you through the process and manage any surprises that occur.
Still need help? Find more information here, or contact a Kaplan Playground representative in your area.