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Tiger Town Playground, Princeton, Minnesota

By David Patten, ASLA, Patten Landscape Architecture, LLC




The view from the east side of the playground is of a designed gathering spot surfaced with synthetic turf.

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Playworld Teak Warehouse
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The Tiger Town Playground is the result of the initiatives of several people to provide an outdoor play space for the Princeton Public School District's Community Education Program for Early Childhood Family Education (ECFE) facility in Princeton, Minnesota. The exterior play space previously on site was a 20'x30' area flanked by masonry walls. It was an area formerly housing a large generator for the Princeton Hospital.

The project started with the need for a larger, more stimulating play space for ECFE preschool and other community classes. The community and childcare providers use the playground frequently when classes are not being held.






The existing concrete area in the foreground was used as a hard surface play area. This area, along with all concrete surfaces, will be surfaced in a rubberized material to reduce bumps and bruises.


One of my children was attending preschool at the time and I was offered the opportunity by the playground committee, consisting of four staff members, to help develop a more suitable exterior play space. I accepted the offer and Patten Landscape Architecture, LLC (PLA) provided the landscape architecture professional services pro bono, from concept through construction.

The playground committee's initial design concept was rectilinear, with four fenced areas for different activities. The design fulfilled the space and activity requirements, but lacked design innovation. The plan depicted is the solution that was constructed in 2006 by volunteers with the support of private/public donations. The playground committee raised over $60,000 in local donations and assembled an army of volunteers over an amazing six-month period to build the playground.






Tubular frost footings were used for the play equipment, along with mural wall construction instead of continuous footing bond beams, which would have required large amounts of root pruning of the oaks.


The playground resides within a grove of oak trees, providing shade for nearly the entire playground. The trees, the "backbone" of the playground's design, were protected throughout the development. The design and use of materials within the playground also help to ensure continued protection of the trees.

During construction, low-impact equipment was used by West Branch Construction to minimize soil compaction and heavier materials were kept out of the critical root zones of the trees. Tubular frost footings were used for play equipment, along with mural wall construction instead of continuous footing bond beams, which would have required large amounts of root pruning.






The NuPlay safety surfacing is a mulch of 100 percent recycled rubber "nuggets." The 20 cubic yards of the soft, springy surface provides excellent fall protection, is durable and allows for drainage.


Recycled rubber mulch, synthetic grass, and sand allow for infiltration and reduce compaction during playground use. The concrete "Tricycle Track" that bounds the playground and educates children about signs in the urban landscape, was poured without compaction of the subgrade using a high fiberglass content concrete, which continues the low-compaction root-zone theme. The mural wall, which is maintained by the local Art Club, is constructed from lightweight and durable Alucobond panels. Yes, that is the same material used in exterior building cladding systems and signage.

Alucobond is constructed of aluminum panels adhered to a low-density polyethylene, which provides a strong, lightweight surface. The mural walls provide a surface to share educational art with the playground users. Other components of the mural wall were constructed from powder coated aluminum, custom designed and installed by PLA.






The mural wall fence, custom designed and installed by Patten Landscape Architecture, screens the parking lot and is meant to display works of the local high school art club. The fence is composed of two sheets of aluminum thermo-bonded to a polyethylene core and coated with a resin. A tricycle track runs 237 ft. around the playground.


The innovation found in design development, funding, construction materials and use of the Tiger Town Playground by the entire community allows many children the opportunity to learn while burning off some of their energy.

Finally, if you were wondering where the Tiger Town Playground got its name, the Princeton Public Schools mascot is the tiger.

Vendor List

  • Playground Equipment: Playworld, Midwest Playscapes, Chaska, Minn.Synthetic Turf: Sprinturf, Wayne, Pa.Safety Surfacing: NuPlay, International Mulch Co., St. Louis, Mo.Mural Wall Panels: Alucobond
  • Chain Link Fencing: Bemboom's Fence, St. Cloud, Minn.







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December 10, 2019, 7:03 pm PDT

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