A ll work and no play makes Jack a very dull boy. Play time is a very important part of a child’s development. Aside from offering the child a chance to blow off steam and get some very important physical fitness, it offers children the opportunity to socialize and work together. No one knows that better than Prior Lake High School Class of 2004 graduate Bryson Pudwill and his brother, Jordan High School Class of 2006 graduate Andrew Pudwill.
Both brothers are from Prior Lake, although Andrew transferred to Jordan High School at the start of his sophomore year to be a part of the school’s wrestling program.
After Andrew graduated from St. Thomas in 2010, the two brothers teamed up to form Ultimate Playgrounds.
“The creation of Ultimate Playgrounds came from our history growing up building playgrounds together, working for another playground design/build company,” Bryson said. “When approached to represent Kompan, we jumped at the opportunity. That was almost four years ago.”
The brothers complement each other. Bryson uses his craftsman and construction background to build projects.
“I am responsible for the construction of everything that is designed and sold,” Bryson said. “Mostly this means playground equipment like at Fuller Park, but it can also mean sport courts and picnic shelters.”
Andrew puts his college degree in business administration to good use by helping with the design, handling sales and presenting to municipalities. Both brothers are Certified Playground Safety Inspectors. As Andrew said, “either one of us would be miserable if we had to switch places with the other.”
According to Andrew, some of the park projects he and Bryson have designed and sold include Hyland Park Reserve in Bloomington; the playground at Heart of the Lakes Elementary in Perham, Minn.; the Minnesota Autism Center; and a project in Eden Prairie at Round Lake Park.
NO BUSINESS LIKE PLAY BUSINESS
The Pudwill brothers work with Kompan Playgrounds to design playgrounds for children of all ages and abilities. Their most recent project involved a new playground design for Fuller Park in Minneapolis.
“I enjoy the challenges presented by each new site and each new project, as well as the satisfaction of a job well done and the satisfaction I get from knowing we’re building better playgrounds than we ever had growing up,” Bryson said.
Kompan Playground designs and manufactures the different playground equipment that is now installed, but Bryson and Andrew designed the park amenities and layout of the playground, selecting different pieces that will entertain and challenge children, while also being inclusive of children who may have physical disabilities.
For example, the park includes a bay basket. It is designed similar to a tire swing, but instead of an open hole in the middle there are mesh ropes, creating a basket effect.
“Imagine a child that would use a wheelchair or have physical limitations, being in a tire swing is not very supportive for kids. With a basket like that, it is almost four feet across and the mesh bottom is very supportive for kids. Even if you were physically challenged, you can still be placed in the basket swing and have that sensation of moving through space and getting out of the wheelchair and playing with other kids and not being restrained,” Andrew said.
When designing playgrounds, not just Fuller Park, Andrew and Bryson try to come up with designs that are inclusive and can get children out of their wheelchair.
“We try to go the extra mile in including kids, getting them out of their wheelchair, getting other kids interacting with them and trying to let them forget about that part of their life for a little while,” Andrew said.
Safety has also changed the design of some traditional playground pieces, such as the merry-go-round. Go back 30 years and the merry-go-round will have handles and bars underneath. Building up speed was easy, but it also came with the risk of children falling off or even getting trapped underneath the merry-go-round.
Enter the supernova, a ring-shaped piece of playground equipment that uses a track and roller blade wheels to spin.
“Some of the wheels go up and down and others go side to side so when it spins, it does not drag,” Andrew said. The supernova can be used by one child or up to six children, and the slight slant of the equipment does not allow children to get stuck.
Another feature of Fuller Park is a play structure with a slide. Children can run up the stairs to the slide or take advantage of the green swing tucked into the structure. But the exterior of the play structure is just as fun. Hand and footholds are built into the play structure and allow children to climb all the way around the structure.
PLAYFUL, YET INCLUSIVE DESIGN
When the new equipment for Fuller Park arrived, Bryson was responsible for unloading it. His job also included removing the old equipment, resurfacing, and getting the new equipment and surfacing installed with the proper tolerances to pass inspection.
Designing a playground is about more than just putting pieces together. According to Jay Cooke, who is vice-president of sales in North America for Kompan Playgrounds, the new playground layout has a multi-generational perspective and holding power.
“We want them to be active and engaged for a long time,” Cooke said.
Fuller Park is designed to be wheelchair-friendly and inclusive, with 50 percent of the equipment accessible to wheelchairs. That means if there are two spring riders in an area, at least one of the spring riders has to have direct access for a wheelchair. If there is only one spring rider in an area, it has to have wheelchair access.
“The little climbing gym is a good accessibility piece for kids with disabilities because the ramps are at low levels that are easy to get into,” Andrew said.
A hammock on one of the playground areas offers similar benefits to the bay basket: it gets a child out of his/her wheelchair to have some fun.
“Even if you are physically challenged, you can lay in the hammock or lay with other kids and be rocked or rock with them,” Andrew said.
What does the future hold for Andrew and Bryson? Right now the brothers and Ultimate Playgrounds are the front-runners in a $1.5 million parks project in Milwaukee, Wis. Whether or not they will win the bid remains to be seen, but one thing is certain: the Pudwill brothers know this business and the business is fun.
“Being able to work with my brother is one of the coolest parts about this, and it seems like a neat destiny thing where we have complimentary skill sets,” Andrew said.