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Child's play(ground): Electronic playground in Layton already seems to be a hit

LAYTON — Those are Ryan McGarry's initials with one of the high scores on the playground.

The Syracuse 14-year-old made his first visit to the playground next to Legacy Junior High Tuesday and is already on the leader board.

Lucky for him, the playground keeps track of his score for him, just like it does for the youths who play any of the 10 games the playground offers.

Wednesday, Layton officials will cut the ribbon at the first electronic interactive playground west of the Mississippi River. It's the fifth such playground in North America.

It's located at 325 N. 3200 West in Layton, just south of the junior high.

Though Wednesday's 5:30 p.m. ribbon-cutting — which will feature local leaders and the president of Kompan, the Danish company that designs interactive playgrounds — will mark the official beginning of play, the playground already seems to be a hit with youths from Syracuse and Layton.

Tuesday, McGarry reached his high score of 12 in a "Memory" type game on a teetering platform. The game demonstrates a pattern for McGarry to lean on the platform, and he earned a score for the number of rounds he could successfully follow the patterns.

Later, Kennedy Smith, 13, and Alex Strong, 12, both of Layton began a game of "Color Chase" at the playground's larger structure. After setting up the game for the number of players and hitting "go," the girls and boys rushed around hitting orange buttons to turn off blinking lights.

Only after getting in a good hour of play did they realize they were exercising, too.

"I never thought about it," Smith said. "I didn't notice. It was the funnest exercising thing I've ever done."

Games call for running, jumping, climbing, stretching and balance, which require the use of various groups of muscles, said Brock Hill, Layton's park superintendent.

The three-structure playground looks simple enough: a carousel surrounding a pillar with handles, the rocking teeterboard and the larger structure with a curved ladder, platforms and balance board.

No instructions for the various interactive games are provided to the youths, Hill said.

"Part of the fun of this is figuring it out," he said.

And after that, they seem to make up their own games, such as the boys who used the spinner bowls in a nearby sand pit, spun themselves around and ran toward the grass to see who could get farther before collapsing from dizziness.

Others have tried to get from one side of the larger structure to the other without touching the ground, Hill said.

"It's an interesting concept," Hill said, not only because it targets 14-to-17-year-olds, an ignored age group in the playground industry.

But it allows them to be more creative than a traditional playground with specific entrances, bridges and slides, said Eric Wride, who is part of the installation team at Western States Parks and Recreation, Kompan's U.S. contractor.

The electronic playground is pricey, at $105,000 plus $30,000 for a rubber play surface, but Hill is getting calls from superintendents around the United States who want to know how well it works.

As for Hill, he's already sold and would love to build another similar playground in Layton if he can convince the Layton City Council to do so.

The kids seem sold, too, and have been playing at the playground for days.

Strong, a fan of regular playgrounds, said what will be music to Hill's ears.

"This one I'm going to come to a lot," she said.


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