Paul’s Pals and Grantee Golden Valley featured in Star Tribune

September 26, 2017

Golden Valley debuts Minnesota’s first playground ‘challenge course’
The city debuted the state’s first such timed obstacle course and a new accessible playground. 

By Eric Roper

Move over monkey bars. Golden Valley’s revamped playground has something a bit more thrilling on offer.

The city recently celebrated the opening of the state’s first “outdoor fitness challenge course” in Schaper Park, just west of Theodore Wirth Park off Hwy. 55. The course allows kids and adults to race against time — and each other — through a 40-yard dash and an obstacle area.

“It’s like the NFL draft combine meets American Ninja Warrior on steroids,” said Harlan Lehman, whose company Minnesota/Wisconsin Playground designed the course, referring to the television obstacle course game show.

Participants press a button, wait for the green light, then race across the course as an overhead timer runs. Participants climb, hop or weave through structures spread across the park, including nets, obstacles suspended from ropes and boxing bag-like dummies.

“When you’re done, you slam or touch the sensor, similar to American Ninja Warrior … and there up in the air is your time,” Lehman said.

The Golden Valley-based company has worked on similar courses in other states, but this will be the first to open in Minnesota. Lehman said a school in Minnetonka has also ordered one.

The course equipment is manufactured by GameTime, based in Alabama, which has also developed an app that allows participants to track progress and compete against each other. The Schaper Park course will also feature a “selfie wall” where people can share their experience online.

“It is for 5-year-olds, all the way to 85-year-olds,” Lehman said of the course. “There is no correct way to use it. There’s many different ways to use it. It depends on your ability.”

The city simultaneously opened its first “all-inclusive” play structure, built with sloping ramps wide enough for a wheelchair to maneuver.

Golden Valley Parks and Recreation director Rick Birno said that was born out of some conversations with Paul’s Pals, a nonprofit organization devoted to children with disabilities. Paul’s Pals donated $35,000 to the project.

Birno said they expect the playground to become a destination for families from nearby and around the metro.

“Our standard play structure, though nice, I don’t think folks would make a special trip or bike over to Schaper Park to utilize that facility,” Birno said. “These two new amenities, I think they’re going to be a big attraction.”

People interested in biking there can hop on the Luce Line Trail, which connects Golden Valley with the western suburbs and Theodore Wirth Park.

The project’s budget is $480,000. Three Rivers Park District, which operates the Luce Line Trail, paid about $325,000 of the cost. The city, Minnesota/Wisconsin Playground and Paul’s Pals are covering the rest. The Golden Valley Rotary Club donated bleachers and trees.

“Partnerships like this one are perfect, because they help connect residents of Golden Valley and surrounding communities to the outdoors and encourage active lifestyles,” Dan Freeman, vice-chair of the Three Rivers Park District Board of Commissioners, said in a statement.

View the full story here.