In recent decades, shopping centres have become a significant consumer attraction in Germany. Their advantage for customers is that they offer a wide range of different retail outlets under one roof. But retail trade is a sector that...
The playground as a sustainable attraction
It is essential and often the key to success for companies in the leisure industry to constantly develop new business fields and to provide guests with ever new attractions. After all, the competition never sleeps, and so new ideas are always sought to compete for visitors.
Families with children of pre-school and school age represent a customer group which nowadays can be reached by providing complex offers which satisfy the needs of every individual family member. The general aim is to create an attraction that will leave a lasting memory and thus trigger the desire to refresh this experience by a new visit.
Customer loyalty is not only an issue in the leisure industry. Shopping centres are also trying to attract families with children with extended services in addition to the basic range of products offered by well-known stores. In many cases, childcare is offered in these shopping miles to enable adults to enjoy an undisturbed shopping experience, of course with the aim to push sales.
However, the decisive factor for the shopping centre is that the children feel comfortable with the care and that it is a special experience for them. After all, it is the children who help to decide how the family's leisure time is organised.
An increasingly popular means of providing families with such kind of offerings is playground equipment. Whether playgrounds with several play devices or amazing attractions at the edge of hiking trails – playgrounds can be designed according to individual needs and wishes and thus may serve as both an enrichment for existing attractions, a new leisure offer or just as a unique selling point. And it makes no difference whether they are outdoor or indoor playgrounds. Although in each of the following four projects the playground as such plays a different role for each operator with regard to its importance, it has indeed become an important marketing instrument for each of the operators, which attracts families and thus indirectly generates sales.
A playground at the summit of the Schattberg
Saalbach-Hinterglemm is a well-known winter sports region in the Austrian province of Salzburg. In order to attract visitors and guests also during the summer season, numerous attractions for different groups of visitors were and are still being created.
The playground at the top of the Schattberg at 2,020 metres above sea level is one of the ways to attract families. To start with they are offered an exciting ride by cable car, the "Schattberg X-press" over two sections up to the summit. Once arrived, it is especially the school-aged children who will find an attractive playground. In addition to playground classics such as swings or hillside slides, the equipment of this play area consists of a low ropes course, which was planned and created by using the OBRA TriMo system. This system, which strongly promotes spatial awareness and coordination as well as shoulder and back muscles was especially developed for adolescents from about ten years of age on. The latter represents an important compensation for the many sedentary activities. Due to its hillside location and the even steeper part behind the playground, the trip with the double cable car becomes a great experience. While swinging back and forth you almost get the impression of sailing down into the valley.
For accompanying persons there are several hammocks above the playground, from which you can have a good view over the playground and enjoy the breathtaking beauty of nature. On top of the mountain the offer is rounded off by a restaurant and a connection to several hiking trails. The cable car company uses this playground with its unique location as a marketing instrument for summer tourism and thus generates additional rides outside the winter season.
Shopping Centre in Salzkammergut
In the Salzkammergut shopping park, the management of the shopping centre focuses on family-friendly offers. The core of this offer is the so-called KiZi - a supervised indoor play area with a regional focus.
In the concept phase, the management of the shopping centre found it important to take up the agricultural landscape of the Salzkammergut as a specific regional focus. In addition, reference was to be made to the city of Gmunden, where the shopping centre is located.
The centrepiece of the KiZi is a two-storey indoor play area, designed in the OBRA rombox system, the front side of which was modelled like a typical farm of the Salzkammergut region. This system was chosen, because it is made from sustainable raw materials and thus contributes to the feel-good climate in the KiZi. The ground floor of the facility is reserved for smaller visitors with a toddler slide, a shop, a kitchen and various motor and optical elements. On the upper level net bridges, a wobbling platform, a roundabout, a boulder wall, various climbing elements and a tube slide offer enough space to let off steam and frolic around.
Of course the animals should not be missing on a farm. Therefore a play fence with a child-friendly presentation of animals was developed serving as a separation to the crawling and resting area. In addition to the cute look, the separation offers many tactile, optical and moving elements. Small tents, oriented towards the centre, were provided as resting islands which thus serve as an excellent place for reading out loud.
An individual play carpet, illustrating the most important streets and sights, was created to serve as a connection to the city of Gmunden, which is located at lake Traunsee, as well as a small footbridge, which leads from the indoor facility to an aquarium and the reproduced lake on the floor. The city tower of Gmunden was also used as a connection and can be found in the furnishings as a book shelf in the form of a tower.
In addition to the high-quality equipment with lots of play value, special attention was paid to the creation of a feel-good atmosphere, due to which the KiZi is particularly popular among parents and children. Together with the accompanying measures, childcare has thus become a marketing instrument of the shopping centre operators.
Pullman City Leisure Park
In the idyllic place called Eging am See in the district of Passau there is Pullman City, an amusement park in the style of the pioneering 19th century in the western USA. The park was taken over by new shareholders and a new management board in 2011 which took up the old concept and expanded the target groups. In order to attract more families in the future, among other things, investments were made to create a thematic playground, the so-called "Little Pullman". This is a combined facility with a western city style cladding, a fort and a giant tepee with a spiral tube slide. The reorientation of the park was successful and reached the relevant target group. Thus, after a short time, the park invested in a new playground, the Adventure Trail. Two parallel lines with different balancing, climbing and hand-over-hand elements in two levels of difficulty should encourage both children, adolescents and adults to demonstrate their skills.
After a steady increase in visitor numbers within the past few years, the Adventure Trail has reached its capacity limit and was thus generously expanded with new elements in 2019. In order to reduce user pressure, additional equipment, such as the western-style combination system, a climbing cactus and the so-called "Wild Horses" spring rockers were installed at another area of the park. At this playground, which is located at a central crossroad of the park, the visitors are invited to practise role-playing due to the specific thematic focus, the niches and the "Sheriff's Veranda" with a rocking chair that swings. At the same time the combined installation provides further climbing elements which are not visible at first sight. This encourages the users to think and act creatively.
For the 2019 season, in Pullman City a stage had to be built for a Karl May Show. Therefore the existing water feature area had to be removed from this place. However, the management board decided to replace the old water feature by a spacious water area consisting of combined water features such as water channels and water tables, a slide channel and an umbrella shower. The latter is a wonderful pleasure on hot days. At four points, visitors can create a water umbrella by pulling a chain, in the centre of which you can (for the time being) stay dry. After a few seconds, however, the water pressure decreases and the umbrella collapses, thus providing a wonderful cooling.
Since the Pullman City Leisure Park has been run by a new management board, the new managers have been working with the play equipment manufacturer OBRA-Design.
A Family attraction and excursion destination
In the Austrian Zillertal the operators of the so-called Finkenberger Almbahnen aimed at creating a unique family attraction on the 2095-metre-high Penken mountain together with a restaurateur and landowner, in order to create a destination for excursions and thus increase the income of the cable car and gastronomic operators during the summer season. It was clear that this attraction had to focus on the so-called Pepi mascot, a loveable bear, wearing a traditional Zillertal costume, and whose appearance and proportions remind of a cuddly toy. But how does a soft toy become a highlight that amazes visitors? And how do you manage to turn this cuddly toy into a USP?
However, the protagonists approached several play equipment manufacturers and commissioned them to develop a concept in the process of which OBRA-Design managed to convince with their idea. The focus of their idea is the 8.5-metre-high sculpture which represents the mascot including a play area inside. The huge play device can be entered through its legs. On the ground floor it offers play opportunities which encourage the visitors to practise role-playing. In addition, simple climbing elements as well as motoric and optical panels are integrated and thus mainly attract small children. Two further, higher levels can be reached inside via different ascents. All levels are deliberately angled and equipped with additional climbing elements such as a space-net or a climbing wall which optimally increase the play value. From the first level an open stainless-steel slide leads back outdoors whereas the second level provides access to two play towers. These can be reached via suspension bridges, which are stretched at a dizzying height. The courage to cross them is rewarded by a rapid slide ride over one of the two stainless-steel tube slides.
For the smaller guests, a small children's playground with sandpit, maze, trampolines, balancing elements close to the ground and a bouncing cushion was provided in front of the huge bear.
This new highlight on the Penken mountain has soon become known far beyond the borders of the Zillertal region. The client was very impressed by the fast implementation and high quality. On this basis it was decided to pursue the original concept. Thus OBRA-Design was commissioned to implement the Pepi’s climbing garden project. The marketing department is looking forward to a gradual expansion of the attraction, as this will allow to promote new attractions every year.
On the basis of these projects it becomes clear that, in the leisure industry, the playground has long since overcome the dusty cliché of slide / sandbox / swing, and is definitely seen as an investment to attract more existing and new visitor groups.