Playing at dizzying heights in Poing Wildlife Park

Playing at dizzying heights in Poing Wildlife Park

Take a stroll through the wood at the entrance to Poing Wildlife Park, past the many tame mouflon sheep and deer that will eye you in the hope of receiving a handful of tasty titbits, and as you emerge from the trees you will come face-to-face with two enormous, strangely shaped play towers in glaring colours that are visible from afar. These two tube slide-equipped towers are the highlights of the large play concept constructed here by the playground equipment firm of Ernst Maier Spielplatzgeräte GmbH in autumn 2015. This large-scale multiplay system, part of its new 'Fiasko' range, is the fourth and to date largest play area the Bavaria-based company has developed and built for the privately-run wildlife park near Munich. The innovative 'Fiasko Grande' climbing and sliding unit sets new standards when it comes to promoting the physical creativity of children and indulging their pleasure in exercise. The only slight problem is that certain basic fears first need to be overcome...

At last the wait is over. Those visiting Poing Wildlife Park in autumn 2015 were only able to observe the construction activities occurring beyond the picnic area from the other side of the site fence. But since November 2015, the largest play system ever installed by Ernst Maier Spielplatzgeräte GmbH has been open for exploration by young adventurers. In the summer of 2013, Josef Festl, the wildlife park operator, commissioned the Bavaria-based playground constructor to produce a new and unconventional playground attraction. The provision of adventure playgrounds has long been an integral part of the recreational strategy adopted by the park that originally came into being in 1959 and is located to the east of Munich. Since 2010, Ernst Maier Spielplatzgeräte GmbH has constructed a total of four large adventure playgrounds designed for use by different age groups and based on various themes in the 570,000 m² Poing Wildlife Park site. The Wild West fort 'Wild Child' was the first; an extensive climbing and balancing concept that was built in spring 2010. A year later, the pirate play ship 'Santa Molino Tierra' dropped anchor in Poing. In 2013, Josef Festl decided he would also like a sand play area for toddlers and a more challenging climbing and sliding system for older children so that he would have recent attractions that would appeal across the whole age range of his younger visitors.

The new play areas were to be “something special”; Festl made no other stipulations apart from this and left the rest to the creative imagination of the development team at Ernst Maier Spielplatzgeräte GmbH.

The required play area for the younger children evolved into an entire Wild West town, with saloon, gold mine, shops and many other play houses. There are also many sand play items that involve rotating and pushing games intended to entice the children into interacting creatively together. There are slides, climbing systems, a cableway and a stagecoach harnessed to two spring rider horses suitable for exercising the motor skills of the younger children. The Wild West town was built in spring 2015 next door to the park's goat enclosure and has proved to be popular among the park's little visitors.

In order to develop the play attraction for older children, Ernst Maier Spielplatzgeräte GmbH decided to break new ground. Starting with a sketch that was first realised in model form, an impressive large play unit with the evocative name 'Fiasko Grande' was created. The structure consists of two slide-incorporating towers, 13 metres and 9.5 metres in height respectively, that represent the main features with several smaller climbing towers linked by exciting platform elements. The two high towers are characterised by their design concept based on the twin elements of air and fire. The 13-metre high slide tower 'Fiasko Castello' represents a 'castle in the air' made real ‒ floating in the air and elevated from the ground. With this concept in view, a conical six-sided tower has been devised that a crown of supporting poles lifts into the sky. A wealth of surprises awaits those bold enough to ascend the tower internally. No two steps are alike and some are tilted; there are ladders, openings to slip through and separate routes that encourage children to take a creative approach to the climb. To get to the top, you need to exercise all your bodily skills. Good for the parents on the trip home, when many a child will sleep peacefully after all this exertion. And on reaching the turret at a height of 7 metres, children encounter an irregular platform; the nets and glass panels incorporated in the floors and walls will allow them to appreciate the remarkable elevation they have reached. Two differently inclined pipe slides can be used to get back to ground level; only the most daring will take the fun pipe slide that seems to descend almost vertically into the depths.

The fire tower 'Fiasko Fuoco', which embodies a camp fire, looks at first glance like nothing more than a random heap of pilings, nets and ropes brought together to be climbed. Young explorers also need concentration, stamina and inventiveness to reach its top. A hole in the floor of the upper structure of the 9.5-metre high tower provides access to the cupola that is bathed in a yellowish-orange light. The two tubes of the Y-shaped slide come together towards the base, inviting children to compete and see who comes out first.

Festl's stipulation that the multiplay unit should be such that it appeals to all age groups has been met by incorporating towers with differing heights and additional elements that require differing levels of skill to master. The platform of the yellow section of the unit is only 1.5 metres from the ground and provides features suitable for younger children while the two high towers are designed to test the motor abilities of larger youngsters. In all, the linked play towers provide for climbing, sliding and balancing fun along a total stretch of some 40 metres.

During the 18-month development period, there were many challenges that needed to be overcome. For example, one problem encountered was how to join the intersections of the metal supporting posts as there were no standard solutions available that conformed to the specifications resulting from structural analysis of the innovative concept. Because of their enormous size, an appropriate system for joining the supporting posts horizontally needed to be found that would allow the components to be dismantled into sections small enough to be transported.

The whole unit was initially fully assembled at the premises of Ernst Maier Spielplatzgeräte GmbH so that structural details and play concepts could be first tested in consultation with the TÜV and construction on-site would be facilitated. The multiplay unit was planned and produced in compliance with the stipulations of EU standard EN 1176 and thus conforms to all safety requirements.

The actual construction phase on location in Poing lasted 2½ weeks. By November 2015 everything was ready and the new 'Fiasko Grande' large multiplay unit next to the picnic area in Poing Wildlife Park was inaugurated. There was little less than a stampede of children looking to try out the new ascending and cross-linking climbing elements; new physical challenges are continually being discovered and conquered. But any basic fears associated with climbing the towers are not those of the children themselves ‒ these are within the minds of the adults accompanying them who need to put these to one side so that their young ones can be simply left to enjoy themselves.

A video has been posted on the Maier Spielplatzgeräte GmbH homepage and on YouTube that shows the construction of the multiplay unit in Poing in a time-lapse sequence: Spielplatzgeräte Maier – Großspielkombination 'Fiasko Grande' – Wildpark Poing: www.spielplatzgeraete-maier.de.

 

Image: Ernst Maier Spielplatzgeräte GmbH

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