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"The Climb" an APR 40th anniversary encore presentation

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Alabama Public Radio is turning forty years old. All year long the APR news team is diving into the archive to bring you the best of the best of our coverage. That includes this story from 2015. APR student intern Josh Hollis reported on an unusual construction project. It involved a Tuscaloosa area park and a company from Denmark.

If you’ve driven past Tuscaloosa’s Snow Hinton Park recently, you’ve no doubt noticed the strange red pyramid-like structure and towering spiral slide. The pyramid is called a space net, and despite its futuristic name, it’s actually a playground – and it’s been grabbing the attention of children and adults alike.

Ten-year-old CJ is certainly a fan: “I’ve been on it more than twenty-five times today.”

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This unique play unit is the brainchild of Tuscaloosa’s Parks and Recreation Authority. It’s part of a five-point-six million dollar renovation to the city’s various parks.

“It’s kind of an out of the box play unit for PARA.”

Becky Booker is PARA’s Public Relations and Marketing Manager.

“Everybody sees the hard plastic or wooden playground units, and this one is a lot different. This style playground is more common in larger cities so we’re kind of on the cutting edge.”

Projects of this magnitude take time, and bringing the space net to Tuscaloosa was no exception.

“We went through several design stages, and several, I mean twenty, at least, where it just wasn’t good enough yet.”

Adrian Cleckler is the playground designer at PARA.

“When we had first started talking about this, we looked at a lot of companies and they didn’t have anything exactly like we wanted it, so we knew it would have to be custom-made.”

That’s where Kompan enters the picture. The Danish playground manufacturer was eager to provide exactly what PARA wanted.

“The Tuscaloosa Country Parks and Rec had an incredible vision.”

Luci Beavers is Kompan’s Sales Rep for the state of Alabama. She worked closely with PARA to bring their vision to life.

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“We showed them really cool ideas from all over the world. And so kind of piecing it together, we came up with this idea and I think it turned out fabulous.”

Beavers says structures like the one in Snow Hinton are the future of playgrounds.

“We are seeing a very big trend towards this type of play unit. So I feel like the more people that see the park at Snow Hinton will catch on to that idea and do different variations in their area.”

She believes people will come from all over to climb the space net and travel down the spiral slide.

“It’s kind of what you would consider a destination playground.”

Turns out she’s right. Since its soft opening in June, the structure has been crawling with both children and adults. The space net truly appeals to everyone.

General consensus from the public seems to be that the space net is fun but challenging and that anyone of any age can climb it.

But the moms and dads have to do the driving to get here. Tuscaloosa resident Lori Winfield just brought her two sons to the space net for the first time…

“They have been going up and down nonstop since we’ve been here. I’m looking at it right now and I see all different ages up there. I see really young ones, I see parents, I see college students. Super fun, super exciting, and safer than I expected.”

Because it’s so different from typical playground structures, safety concerns have been raised by some parents.

“My first impression was terrifying.” That’s Meredith Crocker. We heard from her son CJ at the beginning of the story.

“I told myself that I would not allow my children to come, just from safety concerns, but once I got here, and saw how safe the cables were, and saw how well they maneuvered themselves to the top, I was fine with it.”

But would everyone be fine with it? Talking about climbing is one thing, but actually climbing is another matter entirely. I decided to give it a shot. The climb was far more challenging than I anticipated, but I successfully made it to the top. After a quick trip down the slide, I was back on solid ground.

With such a good reception so far, PARA’s Becky Booker hopes the play unit is another win for Tuscaloosa.

“We are a championship city for other things and we’d like to be known as a championship city for parks and recreation as well.”

Former APR student intern Josh Hollis produced a feature on a new playground structure built by a Danish company in Tuscaloosa. Other topics included the Alabama Writers Hall of Fame and a local "Escape Room." One of his stories also helped APR win an Alabama Associated Press award for best newscast.
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