Country western superstar Taylor Swift and Little Tikes Commercial have partnered to rebuild Kids Kingdom, a popular Nashville area playground destroyed by the flooding of the Cumberland River in May of 2010. Swift attended a Hendersonville area high school near the site of the playground.
When the city officials of Hendersonville, Tennessee decided to build a local playground in 1996, the construction process led to a community-wide build project. “More than 1,500 local volunteers were involved when we built the original Kids Kingdom- everyone from football teams to DECA clubs to neighborhood families,” said Dave LeMarbre, Parks Director of Hendersonville. “It’s a very sentimental part of our community.”
While the mid-Tennessee region had seen flooding the in past, the heavy and persistent rains of the spring of 2010 caused the Cumberland River to overflow, finally cresting at 52 feet. The flood damaged parts of the historic downtown Nashville, the Grand Ole Opry House, and the low-lying land in many suburban areas, including Hendersonville. Due to its location in a river valley, the playground had been underwater a few times since its 1996 construction. It was still viable for use before the May 2010 floods, when water damaged caused major safety liabilities and irreparable maintenance issues. Tennessee Parks and Recreation guidelines deemed the structure too dangerous for play.
However, around the fall of 2010 Hendersonville officials began discussing the possibility of reconstruction. Because the old playground was a sensitive issue for Hendersonville residents who collaborated in the '96 construction efforts, LeMarbre and his colleagues helped educate the community about the safety issues at stake and the necessity of demolition. The plans for renovation were delayed because of financial issues until Taylor Swift, a Hendersonville native, donated $100,000 to the project, enough to help finalize the total budget of $175,000. “We are thrilled that Taylor wanted to support her hometown,” says LeMarbre. “It reminds us that this is still a community-built playground.”
Hendersonville area restaurants such as Wendy’s, the Black-Eyed Pea as well as the Nashville Sounds Foundation raised money to help with the rebuild efforts. The local Lowes made significant contributions, offering discounted building supplies for flood-damaged equipment. A large cadre of Lowes employees showed up to help assemble a playground adjacent to Kids Kingdom, finishing in one day.
When the time came to choose a vendor, it was an easy decision to choose Little Tikes Commercial. Since he began working as Parks Director, LeMarbre says he chooses to work with Little Tikes products in all the playground construction projects he oversees. “We value our relationship with Little Tikes. They have a great track record and always make prompt visits to the site for basic repairs.” LeMarbre praises the company for their sensitivity to the community history, crediting them with creative approaches to mix the old feel of Kids Kingdom with its new rendition.
Playing along with the Kids Kingdom theme, the designers at CPSI Mid-South Recreation, Inc., distributors of Little Tikes equipment, wanted to build on a classic castle motif with modern playground technology. Built out of engineered wood fiber, each structure resembles a medieval tower and adds a bit of flare with a colorful thematic palate. Additions like the Gellyfish, a modern twist on spiral staircases, are some of the features that distinguish the new playground from the old.
Today, visitors enter Kids Kingdom through the arched entryway from the former playground and pass into a revitalized play space. In the next few weeks, a series of plaques will be hung up to commemorate the 1,5000 people who helped in the original build. Every individual is named. Soon to join the series of plaques will be 150 clay handprints made by the children who will play at Kids Kingdom in its second generation. LeMarbre was pleased with the result. “These mementos help us remember those who helped in the past and honor the youth who will be the first to enjoy Kids Kingdom all over again.”
PlayPower LT Farmington, Inc., manufacturer of the Little Tikes Brand of Commercial Playground Equipment is headquartered in Farmington, MO. For more information, visit, www.littletikescommercial.com.