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What You Need to Know to properly Evaluate & Compare Indoor Playground Quotes

Opening an Indoor playground for the entrepreneurs involved is often a dream but it represents as well a big investment, especially when you are at the stage of selecting the indoor play structures.

Did you know than about 60% of playground owners regret their choice of suppliers 1 year down the road? (IAAPA 2010)

The standard procedure of most future playground owners will be to request at least a second offer to an alternative supplier to compare.

It's then crucial to compare "apples with apples", if you know what I mean. I invite you to use that series of articles as a checklist to gather all essential information before diving in comparing suppliers quotes

What are the major criteria on which you should request clarifications?

- Safety
- Play attraction Mix / Playability
- Type of partnership proposed

1 - SAFETY: Does the indoor playground supplier "walk the talk"?

Most indoor playground manufacturers will claim that safety is their main concern when creating their play structures - Make sure that it's not only cheap "sales talk"

Here are important points to check:

o Is the indoor playground manufacturer working with a certified known & independent control laboratory to certify material, indoor play attractions and sites after installation?

Why is that important? Because a certified control laboratory will have many clients which guarantee its independence. If the manufacturer represents only 0.5 or 1% of the total turnover of the laboratory, he cannot put pressure to have them certify structures which are not 100% in conformity with the norms. If the manufacturer is one of the biggest clients of the laboratory, it makes it much more difficult to resist the pressure.

Remember, in case of accidents, your responsibility is engaged as well if your playground is not fully in conformity.

Another reason is that the sector of indoor playground being still young - the norms can be submitted to "interpretations". A known laboratory engages its credibility while certifying a playground and won't take any risk so it will apply the highest standards which in return supplies you more "peace of mind" as manager about the safety of your play structures.

o Is the manufacturer able to supply proper safety certificates for all material and play events?

A point that will facilitate your interactions with local safety committees or commissions OR turn them into a small nightmare

o Is the manufacturer able to supply certificates valid in YOUR country?

Indeed, some countries have regulations which are even stricter than European ones - let's take France for example. Does the manufacturer can supply proofs that they comply as well to these stricter norms when they apply? Ask the question.

o What kind of material is used and from which origin?

Very tricky, but so essential point - Evaluate the quality of the material used to build play events in your playground offer.

For example, for a hump deck, does the manufacturer only use foam with vinyl over or is there some wooden structure under? That will be critical in the aging process of your playground and maintenance activities to keep it fully operational.

Or the quality of the foam used - ask to see samples when visiting production unit or check a 1-year playground to see how it holds (are the wall pads sagging or not?)

How thick is the foam used for floor pads? That will influence safety and the play experience of your children visitors.

The best way is either to visit the production unit and showroom of each manufacturer you are considering at the final stage or to visit a 1 year old project of each manufacturer on your short list.

The question of the origin is important in regard of the respect of the norms and lead time. Often, future playground owners get excited by the price of play structures seen online from Asian manufacturers without knowing that they can't be installed in Europe because not conform to European norms. The origin as well can have a large impact on quality and how robust is the final result. Material brought from far distance might mean delays - make sure to get clarity on delivery process and lead time involved.

o Installation - what kind of techniques are used?

Despite being a bit of a tricky one, this topic is truly important because, on top of the safety of your park, it will influence costs in the long-term.

Why? Because the techniques used have an effect of how robust are the play attractions - keep in mind the intensive use - and how easy can the maintenance be operated.

For example, are the foam protections (tuff pads) which cover the steel sewed with twine or hold with pull-ties (the pull-ties cut through the tuff pads after a while damaging them).

In case of attractions such as a climbing tower, ask to get an explanation of the fixation system of the elastic bands. If it requires the intervention of a specialized staff for replacement that means extra costs for maintenance of this play event.

Get my drift? Look at the various play structures and attractions, think about safety and maintenance and ask for clarification to get a clear full picture.

Now, you are done with a big chunk: SAFETY. It's time to move to another key factor for your FEC success: Part 2- The play structures mix and Playability

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