Visitors to the ABQ BioPark Zoo are in for a treat now that the new Colores Play Area has opened. Kids can climb, slide and hop from gator to gator thanks to funding from the city's capital implementation program.
Today Mayor Richard J. Berry announced during a ribbon cutting ceremony that the new play area is a vast improvement over the previous structure, which became very costly and difficult to maintain in recent years resulting in frequent closures. According to J.T. Allen, the BioPark's chief executive, the city was spending approximately $50,000 to $75,000 a year to maintain and repair the older play area. The new play area cost $512,000 to design, fabricate and install.
The nature-themed play area includes two distinct colorful structures - one for ages 2-5 and the other for ages 6-12 - that resemble tree houses. The design allows more freedom of movement for those playing and a greater visual for parents and adults watching from the side. The area allows for wheelchair access onto the spongy surface and both structures comply with the American with Disabilities Act.
"In designing the new play area, we wanted to address accessibility, safety, sustainability and - of course - fun," Mayor Berry said to students from the Zoo's neighboring Dolores Gonzales Elementary School who attended the ceremony. "I am pleased that visitors to the Zoo will no longer encounter disappointing and lengthy closures."
The larger of the two structures has a metal roof and was designed to complement the architecture of surrounding buildings. It has three slides and is fully enclosed at the top with a 360 degree view of the Zoo. The whole play area includes alligator and hippo head stepping pods, a custom Eastern box turtle climber, a log crawl tunnel, two dinosaur fossil eggs and one seashell fossil egg. These are made of glass fiber reinforced concrete (GFRC) and are hand painted for an authentic look and feel. Kids will have fun looking for the "residents" of the tree houses who appear throughout the area.
ExerPlay, incorporated and headquartered in Cedar Crest, designed the play area. Other local projects of ExerPlay include the popular A Park Above in Rio Rancho and the Cesar Chavez Spray Pad in southeast Albuquerque. ExerPlay has designed, installed and serviced more 18,000 play and park projects over the last 26 years. It serves New Mexico, Arizona, Alaska, southern and western Texas, Nevada and Hawaii as an authorized distributor for Landscape Structures, Inc., the leading playground equipment manufacturer.
Materials used in the Zoo's play area were primarily aluminum, steel, Permalene (a hard, durable plastic), Polyethylene (a softer, durable plastic) and rubberized coatings. The structures are made from 68% post-consumer recycled materials and are 98% USA-made. The ropes have steel aircraft cable braided into every strand, ensuring longevity. The posts hold a 100 year warranty and the manufacturer makes all replacement parts for structures built since 1972.
According to Douglas Carp, territory manager for ExerPlay, all the equipment used was required to pass strict rules and regulations guided by American Society for Testing and Materials as well as the Consumer Product Safety Commission. Everyone involved in designing, selling and installing the equipment must be licensed and recertified every three years.
The play area will eventually see updated landscaping and more shaded seating areas. A time lapse video of the construction can be seen here.