Lakewood BlueClaws Park in Lakewood, N.J.
By Kelli Anderson
Choosing between a minor- and major-league baseball game with little ones in tow is pretty much a no-brainer when you factor in some essentials: your wallet, your child's attention span and your ability to enjoy the hot dogs while focusing on the game.
Minor-league baseball has successfully pitched its family-oriented image and continues to be a hit with children thanks in part to its smaller sized stadiums and between-inning antics. More and more stadiums, however, are continuing to add to their rosters of minor-league attractions to please their younger patrons.
The Lakewood BlueClaws in Lakewood, N.J., a class-A affiliate of the Philadelphia Phillies, opened its inaugural season with a new state-of-the-art ballpark in April—complete with its well-received family-friendly features.
"It's minor-league baseball; it's a situation where we cater to families," explains Geoff Brown, general manager of the Lakewood BlueClaws Park. "A Phillies game is serious baseball. BlueClaws baseball is for entertainment. It can be competitive, but every year the players change so you can't get as close to the team. So we get close to the family—you know, all the crazy stuff in between the game. It's a great place where if two in the family are serious about the game, they can be, but there's still entertainment for the others."
When considering what features would best suit the new ballpark, it helped planners to look at what was working elsewhere in the industry.
"A number of other ballparks have had success with carousels, regular playgrounds and inflatables," Brown says. "We decided to go with a playground—it's free, lets the kids blow off steam, and the parents love it."
Selecting the right play equipment for the BlueClaws stadium's needs meant considering at least three important factors: their budget, a limited area in which to place the equipment and, last but not least, safety. The PowerScape brand play equipment manufactured by the 72-year-old GameTime products division of the PlayCore company, with its large selection and ability to customize, met their needs.
"First of all, we loved the design with our team colors and our logo all over it," says Brandon Marano, operations manager of the park. "Second, the dimensions of it were a perfect fit to the space we had allocated for it. And third, after research, we felt it had great safety features."
PowerScape models are all IPEMA certified and tested by an independent inspection and testing facility that specializes in children's play equipment and surfacing, the Detroit Testing Laboratories, Inc. Testing for durability and safety plus some unique design features such as the patented MegaLocs for GameTime's play systems made the PowerScape designs for the stadium a good fit.
The modular play structure targets children ages 5 to 10, is ADA compliant, and features slides and climbers. Not only was it customized with the team colors of blue, red and white, but the team's six-color logo was also digitally scanned right into the plastic moldings. Modifying the tic-tac-toe panels to have bats and balls instead of Xs and Os was another special thematic touch.
The play structure cost around $30,000 and has been very popular.
"We have stadium seating for 6,588 and grass or lawn seating for another 3,000," Brown says. "Our largest attendance this past year was over 9,000, and the parents and kids just loved it [the play structure]."
Adds Marano: "Most really like it as something different."
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