Commons working on playground upgrade plans

This architect’s rendering from Hitchcock Design Group shows a concept to make improvements at The Commons playground. New interactive elements are in the foreground with The Luckey Climber in the background. Rendering by Hitchcock Design Group. Republic staff photo

City officials and community leaders have said they are in the process of tweaking plans unveiled last year to upgrade the Commons playground.

The initial plans to upgrade the 5,000-square-foot playground, released in October, included new roller slides, music and sensory features, a tunnel for toddlers to complement the Luckey Climber, among other upgrades.

“We’re still fine-tuning the overall final plan,” said Columbus Parks Director Mark Jones. “We’re getting closer to being able to have a clear picture of what we think is feasible fundraising-wise.”

City officials and local leaders had requested tax increment financing funding from the city for the project, but were denied, according to minutes of the Commons Board’s meeting in April.

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Tracy Souza, president of the Commons Board, said private and public sources of funding would likely be sought, but the overall cost of the upgraded playground has not yet been established.

“We’re still working on it,” she said. “We’re getting closer.”

Currently, no additional details on the project’s progress are available and there is no estimated timetable for when the final plans for the playground upgrades will be set, Souza said.

Initial plans for the playground’s upgrades were unveiled in October after a series of public-input sessions were held last year to shape the overall design of the playground.

The plans were drafted by the Hitchcock Design Group, a firm that the city to develop a design for the playground. The new design concepts included climbing, sliding, exploration and music/sensory play opportunities for children, Andy Howard, design principal at Hitchcock’s main office in Naperville, Illinois, said last year.

The 35-foot-tall netted Luckey Climber, the main feature of the playground, would remain unchanged.

One goal of the upgrades would be to make the playground more accessible to individuals with disabilities and to ensure that all children have the opportunity to play together, Howard said. One such feature is a slide that allows three individuals to go down at one time, he said.

The redesign of the playground potentially would include elements such as sensory color panels and drums, a seating area inside the area and improved sight lines for families to more easily monitor their children, Howard said.

An embankment slide within the playground also would allow parents to ride with their children, Howard said.

In June, the Bartholomew County Convention, Recreation and Visitors Promotion Commission awarded capital project grants for, among other things, playground improvements at The Commons.

The commission granted $100,000 for the upgrades during its June meeting, but the grant will only be awarded if all stakeholders give a final approval before the end of next year, commissioners said during the June meeting.

The commission’s recommendations were to be presented to the Bartholomew County Council as part of its overall budget hearings this month.

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The playground at The Commons is located at 300 Washington St. in downtown Columbus.

The playground is overseen by the Columbus Parks and Recreation Department, the only indoor playground in the city recreation system. The playground is free and open to the public during normal business hours.

  • 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday to Thursday
  • 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday
  • 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Sundays

It features age-specific areas: Toddlers (6 months to 2 years old); Preschool (ages 2 to 5) and School-Age (ages 5 to 12).

It is located inside the two-story Commons, a public space that takes up an entire city block and includes four restaurants.

The Commons is overseen by The Commons Board.

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