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Re-Imagining Play: Paco Sanchez Park
Landscape Architecture by Dig Studio, Laurel Raines ASLA, PLA

Re-Imagining Play: Paco Sanchez Park

The Mic Tower is the focal point of Paco Sanchez Park in Denver Colorado and was inspired by a 1950s-style microphone. It stands thirty-two feet tall and was manufactured by Landscape Structures Inc., as were the other play elements. Inside is an assortment of climbing apparatuses allowing children to climb up and have a tree-top-style experience.

In 2012, the Denver Parks and Recreation department hosted a national 'Re-Imagine Play' design competition to replace an existing playground.

After an in-depth analysis of demographics surrounding potential Denver parks, a 30-acre park, Paco Sanchez, in northwest Denver was chosen. The analysis pointed to the high need for facilities that could modify the health and social conditions for the underserved nearby residents.

Improving Health and Wellness
One of the qualifying facts in choosing Paco Sanchez was the lack of existing park facilities in the area. A simple, outdated playground and ball field did little to draw neighborhood children outside to play. A Colorado Health Foundation grant initiated research pertaining to the health impact the revitalized park could have for surrounding neighborhoods. Denver Parks and Recreation partnered with the Department of Environmental Health to conduct health assessments prior to construction, which confirmed that very few people were currently using the park.

Re-Imagining Play: Paco Sanchez Park

The inside of the Mic Tower features a myriad of unique ways to descend and ascend, including a spiral slide straight down the middle.

Re-Imagining Play: Paco Sanchez Park

The theme for the playground design was "broadcasting," in honor of Paco Sanchez, founder of Denver Colorado's first Spanish radio station in 1954.

Reducing Childhood Obesity
Drawing upon the Denver Parks Master Plan guiding principles, the design team, led by Dig Studio, transformed Paco Sanchez Park with a $10 million renovation. The resulting design delivers a multi-faceted experience to test and engage users of all ages, abilities and backgrounds. To promote physical activity, the design spreads activity areas out, rather than clustering them in one spot. Simply walking from one play pod to another gets parents and children moving.

Play opportunities are open-ended and integrated into site features in multiple ways. Visitors aren't limited when entering the park from the upper parking lot. They can slide right in or traverse the bridge leading to a 32-foot-tall play tower. Dig Studio worked with playground manufacturer Landscape Structures Inc. to create custom play features that challenge users' abilities and engage their senses in new and unexpected ways, like climbing to the top of a 32-foot play structure and seeing the view. These play features encourage social interaction and collaboration because older kids and adults are able to help younger children navigate endless routes for climbing, sliding and swinging.

Enhance Community Identity
The park and play features celebrate music and broadcasting, honoring the park's namesake, Paco Sanchez, who started Denver's first Spanish language radio station. A looped pathway links multiple play pods framing a grassy Music Bowl. A "Record Stage" at the base of the bowl will be programmed with outdoor movies and concerts during summer months. Visitors can slide into the park through a wide Gramophone Slide or experience the bridge's Musical Railing on the way to the Mic Tower - its form reminiscent of a vintage microphone. The Guitar Pick and Frequency Climbers below the bridge provide alternate climbing routes as well.

Re-Imagining Play: Paco Sanchez Park

The climbing structures situated under the bridge symbolize sound waves, while the bridge on the way to the Mic Tower includes a Musical Railing of chimes designed by Dig Studio.

Strengthening Neighborhoods
The park includes a community plaza, a kiosk building and a shade structure for gatherings. As the focal point for the entire community, the space provides a central meeting area for neighborhood events, from food trucks and festivals to ice skating. The kiosk building stands as a new model for helping Denver Parks and Recreation increase activity and participation in underserved areas citywide. An on-site attendant will check-out play equipment free of charge to community members. The building will house restrooms and a flexible demonstration area for a variety of educational and recreational programs.

Reimaging Play in West Denver
By combining place-making and creative play environments with a physical staff presence by Denver Parks and Recreation, Paco Sanchez Park strengthens West Denver communities and supports healthy, active lifestyles. By keeping people in motion and bringing them together in new ways, the design of the park celebrates its users through engagement and exercise.

As seen in LASN magazine, March 2018.

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October 13, 2019, 6:55 pm PDT

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