Tag Archives: environmentally friendly

Playing it Safe

June 10, 2015 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

This article originally published in June 2015 Her Family.

If you come from early Omaha stock, it’s likely your parents, grandparents, great-grandparents, and maybe even your great-great-grandparents grew up frolicking on the City of Omaha’s playground equipment.

“The movement for playgrounds really came about in the late 1890s,” says Tracy Stratman, recreation manager for the City of Omaha Parks & Recreation Department. “It all started in the inner cities to create locations for kids to actually get out and have constructive play. That way they could deter negative activities and youth crime.”

Gone, though, are many of the early playground standards. You won’t see the sheet-metal slides that sizzled in the sunshine and featured steep, narrow steps. It’s nearly impossible to find tall teeter-totters (Anyone else remember crashing to the ground when the child on the other end suddenly scooted off?) or high, slick, monkey bars positioned over a shallow layer of sand on hard ground. Oh yes—don’t forget those flat merry-go-rounds that sent children skidding off the perimeter.

As children, we wanted playground toys that were faster, higher, and more intense, but from an adult perspective, it’s safety first. Or as Stratman puts it, “Your perception of what you see on a playground drastically changes when you become a parent.”

Contemporary playgrounds still deliver the thrill, but rein in the risk for kids of all ages and abilities, says owner of Crouch Recreation Eric Crouch. As a Heisman Trophy winner for the Nebraska Cornhuskers, he knows about the unpleasantness of hitting the ground hard.

The company’s installations can be seen all over the metro area in public locations such as Benson Park, Vogel Park, and Stinson Park, as well as other sites such as SIDs, commercial daycares, and schools throughout Nebraska, Iowa, and South Dakota.

“Accessibility is huge and safety is one of the top factors. Quality of equipment, and sometimes design, factors into it as well,” Crouch says. “We want things to be safe, to look nice, and to stand the test of time.”

Industry standards are guided by the American Society for Testing and Materials, the Consumer Product Safety Commission, and the Americans with Disabilities Act, Crouch says. But manufacturers have found ways to keep the old standbys (“You really miss the mark if you don’t include slides or swings”) only with safer—and sometimes more fun—options from saucer seats and wide platform slide entrances to spring supports for see saws and pliable surfacing.

“We are so safety-conscious today and we’re making improvements, but we’re seeing the throwback to what we did as kids,” Stratman says.

Larger playground structures are typically modular so clients can create one-of-a-kind arrangements with more features than ever available, Crouch says.

“Now kids will get to a park and they see something that will interest them: How do I use this? It takes a little bit of their mind and their body strength to look at a piece of equipment and interact with it,” Crouch says. “New designs stimulate creative thinking.”

Other innovative elements seen on today’s playgrounds include the use of environmentally-friendly materials, custom designs that integrate into the surroundings, shade structures, seating for parents or caregivers, stroller- and wheelchair-accessible paths, and even sports and fitness features to make parks appealing to all ages.

But one thing never changes, Stratman says. “The confidence building as well as the social skills you learn on the playground are limitless.”


Omaha’s Growing Landscape

April 3, 2014 by
Photography by Omaha Convention & Visitors Bureau

Omaha is undergoing a bit of a hotel boom, with a dozen new hotel properties under construction or in the pipeline, including the new $27 million Hyatt Place which opened in Omaha’s Old Market entertainment district. Also in the works is a new 330-room convention hotel, which will be built across from CenturyLink Center Omaha, the city’s 250,000-square-foot convention center.

Hilton Omaha completed a $35 million expansion and renovation project and now offers 600 rooms, a 7,000-square-foot ballroom, and completely renovated meeting rooms.

The Doubletree Hotel Downtown completed a $20 million renovation and formed a “green team” to develop innovative and environmentally friendly features. The hotel now offers a bicycle checkout station in its lobby so visitors can save on fuel and pedal to nearby restaurants and shops.

Omaha’s riverfront is also changing with the addition of the Storz Trophy Room. The historic Omaha brewery revived its brand, opening a restaurant with plans to add a micro brewery at the same location. The new entertainment venue sits right along Omaha’s riverfront and within a block of the convention center, creating another great place for visitors and convention delegates to enjoy.

This all points to a city on the move, which is good news. One cautionary note: Omaha has experienced a 42 percent growth in the number of hotel rooms over the last 10 years. Demand over that same period has grown 25 percent. While demand—the number of people visiting the city—is growing at a healthy pace, the supply of new hotel rooms is growing even faster. As we look to the future, creating new ways to attract even more visitors to Omaha and filling these new hotel rooms will be an important factor in our city’s success as a destination.

Questions or comments? E-mail us at info@visitomaha.com.

Dana Markel, Executive Director

Omaha Convention & Visitors Bureau