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Taking Play to New Heights
Orlando-Sanford International Airport Playground


The Seminole County Sports Complex is located about 2 miles from the Orlando-Sanford International Airport. At the center of this 100-acre park lies the 7,000 square foot Orlando-Sanford International Airport Playground, which is sponsored by the airport. The aviation themed play elements, including the red biplane getting ready to take off from the playground's "runway," were custom designed by Landscape Structures.

Sanford Airport Authority officials had set aside an open space near the Orlando-Sanford International Airport designated for a playground. But they did not necessarily know what to do with it, or how to go about installing one there.

Seminole County officials stepped in to help.


On a strip of artificial turf runway sits an OmniSpin Spinner, one of the 10 accessible play components on the playground. Seminole County hired Rep Services, the playground manufacturer's local representative, to design the playground. Landscape architects from the county contributed as well.

"The major challenge to overcome was how to fund the playground," said Carl Kelly, registered landscape architect and project manager for Seminole County. "The county only had $100,000 budgeted."

Wanting to add value to the airport, county officials asked that the playground have an aeronautical theme, playing off of the theme of the surrounding 100-acre Sports Complex. Additionally, a landing strip and air control tower are both visible from the playground. This piqued the interest of the Orlando Sanford Airport, who agreed to contribute $100,000.

"The county bid out the design of the project and received several bids," said Kelly. "We then narrowed down the selection and invited them to pitch their design ideas and come up with the best aeronautical design for under $200,000."

"The county selected us," said Nathan Almon, sales representative for Rep Services. They then asked Landscape Structures to design the playground space. In this instance, Rep Services acted as the agent for the manufacturer and also installed the equipment. They were selected because of the design and quality of its products, Almon said, and were awarded the contract over several other playground equipment manufacturers.


The Oodle swings are also accessible, and were selected because the structure is reminiscent of nearby airport hangars. Because of the playground's closeness and its aeronautical theme, the Orlando-Sanford Airport agreed to contribute $100,000 to the funding of the project - half of the overall budget.

The playground's central feature is the customized control tower, called a Play Booster. On the tower is a sign that proclaims the Aviation Authority as the official sponsor of the Orlando-Sanford International Airport Playground. The control tower includes a custom panel about the Wright Brothers, custom angled windows, a cockpit, and a windsock on the roof.

The 7,000 square foot playground is accented with a customized red biplane climber that is waiting to take off from the playground's airport "runway." Three airplane spring riders, each built to seat two, give children under 2 a place to play.

Another playground feature are the Oodle Swings with its high arches, designed to mimic the expansive hangars at Orlando-Sanford International Airport. Additionally, an 84" Disc Challenge lets kids wobble from one end of a bridge to the other, improving balance and coordination.


Since its grand opening and ribbon cutting in May 2016, the park has seen around 148,000 visitors thanks to the tournaments held in the surrounding sports complex.

The safety surfacing is all synthetic turf. Over 4,600 square feet of 'Field Green' mixed with 'Lime' colored 'Academy Grass' makes up the bulk of the surfacing, while an additional 1,500 square feet of gray turf creates the runway. The green, blue and red color scheme used in the playground echoes the identifying colors used at each ball field hub within the park. "It seemed natural to mix these colors together at the center of the park, particularly in the design of the playground," explained Rick Durr, landscape architect from Seminole County.

"There were a number of custom elements that were a part of the playground design that needed to be manufactured and assembled in time for the grand opening as the rest of the park was being completed," said Durr. "Close coordination with the project contractor Wharton Smith was critical to ensure site improvements would be completed early enough in the construction process to make sure the playground installation had the sufficient time needed for completion." The playground has grown increasingly popular since its opening, as youth athletes and their families visit the park for tournaments. Between tournaments local families enjoy the playground as well.

"In the coming year - with new housing developments being constructed nearby - we expect to see a continued increase in activity at the playground with this park serving as the local community playground facility," said Durr.

As seen in LASN magazine, August 2017 Playground.

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December 17, 2018, 12:25 am PST

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