ALMOST DONE: Supply chain issues hold up Commons playground renovations

As the year draws to an end, renovations on The Commons’ indoor playground continue, with the final end date delayed by supply chain issues and other factors.

When asked if the playground was unlikely to reopen in 2021, Commons Manager Shanda Sasse said officials do not have a specific date for reopening in mind.

”We are still optimistic. We just don’t know how long it’s going to take to get this final push completed,” she said.

“We don’t want to over-promise or under-deliver,” added Parks Associate Director of Business Services Pam Harrell.

Sasse said they hope to reopen The Commons playground as soon as the project is completed.

“We’re waiting on concrete repairs, because when they poured the concrete for the curb wall, there were some hunks that were not smooth,” she said. “So we’re waiting on the concrete people to come back and smooth it out, and then the flooring people will be coming in to finish the flooring over it.”

According to Sasse, the project timeline has been impacted by material shortages and delays. COVID-19 was also a “big factor” at first.

Scheduling different pieces of the project and working with different vendors has also been a factor. Sasse explained that it’s a challenge to get on every vendor’s schedule when “everybody’s short-staffed right now.”

The work that remains is the final component. Officials have been in contact with vendors and are waiting on schedules, which haven’t been provided yet — making it difficult to give an estimate for a reopening date.

“COVID-19’s always going to be a factor, I think,” said Harrell, when asked if the pandemic might affect the reopening timeline. “But as far as the playground, we’re going to take all of the precautions we can, but it’s really going to be up to the people to follow what we set in place. So wearing masks, using hand sanitizer — we can only ask for that to be done. We can’t enforce it.”

When asked if the total project cost would still be about $1.4 million or less, she replied that they are currently under the budget total. However, the project is not complete, so Harrell cannot release the “final dollar amount” until she’s sure they won’t get any more invoices.

The timeline of the project has changed multiple times over the past several months. In July of 2020, Harrell presented a tentative timeline for the playground project, which showed that work might begin in the fall, with finishing touches completed between Dec. 15 and Jan. 31.

The Commons Board and Parks Board approved a contract with PLAYTIME LLC as the main contractor on the project in November. Harrell said at the time that the company planned to finish work by March 1 of 2021. She later added that the goal was for the whole project to be finished by that date.

In March, Sasse reported that the project would probably be complete in late spring, given delays in material acquisition and shipping timelines due to both winter weather and the pandemic.

She later said at the end of June that they were “really close,” pending some punch list items and touch-up painting. Sasse added that “the big hold-up” involved a curbed section needed for safety reasons. Its base would be made of concrete, which would then be covered by rubberized pour-in-place flooring material.

The ongoing national shortage of raw materials, which included pour-in-place flooring material, also delayed the project. Her belief was that once the flooring material arrived, work would move “pretty swiftly.”

In September, Harrell told The Commons Board that things were “starting to wrap up.” Concrete had been poured in an area that needed to be redone, and the plan was for pour-in-place flooring workers to be in soon to finish the area. PLAYTIME would also be wrapping up some punch list items, and after both that and the flooring, the only piece left would involve a panel not needed for reopening.

As of November, Sasse said that while delays have been an issue, officials are still looking forward to the end result.

“Until the last four or five months, it (the project) was going really well,” she said. “… Material shortages and people shortages has played a bigger role in this than what we originally anticipated. As far as the design of the new playground and the collaboration of the creativity of trying to create a new experience for the community, that all is very positive. … The reason why this is so frustrating is because we’re so excited to finally share it with the community.”