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Building blocks: New local park inspired by ‘Minecraft’

Building blocks: New local park inspired by ‘Minecraft’

Building blocks: New local park inspired by ‘Minecraft’
September 03
13:31 2015

Erica Wieting | Features Editor

@ericawootang

When Denton Parks and Recreation asked thousands of elementary school kids in Denton to create their dream design for the new Eureka 2 playground, they were met with an overwhelming response.

“We sent teams of volunteers and Parks staff out to talk to all these children,” Parks Foundation Executive Director Molly Tampke said. “They were really fascinating. People wanted petting zoos. A lot of people wanted snowcone stands. One kid wanted a platform where they could trade stuff.”

A rocket-powered skateboard was also suggested.

The current Eureka playground located at South Lakes Park, was built 20 years ago. Tampke said it is worn out and in constant need of repair, and the upkeep has been too expensive. It will be demolished 1 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 10 and rebuilt from Monday, Oct. 12 to Friday, Oct. 16 by volunteers from the Denton community.

Not every request for the new design could be fulfilled, but one consistent wish stood out above the rest: a Minecraft-based design.

“I didn’t actually know what [Minecraft] was,” said Play by Design consultant Dennis Wille, who is working on the project. “I’d heard of it, but I didn’t know the specifics of what Minecraft was really about.”

Minecraft, a Swedish game played on computers or gaming consoles, allows players to construct their own virtual 3-D worlds out of oversized cubes. Players can switch between survival, creative and adventure modes.

The Play by Design company specializes in community playground projects like this one.

“When we go through all the ideas, we try to include things that are especially popular and unique,” Wille said. “We rely on the kids’ imaginations to bring certain things to the playground.”

Because he didn’t know much about the game, Wille said he had to recruit some outside help.

“One of the committee people has a granddaughter who was definitely into Minecraft, so after she finished school she stopped by and explained it to me,” he said. “So I got an idea of it, and then I got back to the office and looked into images that sort of reinforced what [she] had explained to me.”

Semi-enclosed spaces incorporated into the design will give a tunnel-like sense to parts of the environment, mirroring the game’s atmosphere. Wille said although he often uses geometry in playground design, this is the first time he has worked with the concept of stacked cubes.

“I have an essence of the visual aspect of it,” he said. “And then kids will bring their imaginations if they’re familiar with the game and supply that personal experience piece to the environment that we provide.”

Tampke said she’s excited about the new engineering possibilities that have opened up in the past 20 years since the first playground was built. Eureka 2 will have structures accessible to children and young adults with mental and physical disabilities. There will even be an area with musical tools.

Volunteer chair coordinator Stefanie Lindlau said the new playground will have a climbing wall, a large 18-wheeler truck that kids can climb on and wheelchair-accessible equipment such as oversized swings.

“It’s a large project,” Lindlau said. “We’re going to need any help we can get.”

The Eureka team is raising money both locally and internationally for the project, but the playground’s construction will be a community effort. For the week of Monday, Oct. 12, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. every day, the Parks department is offering free lunch and dinner to anyone who wants to sign up and help out.

The community aspect of the playground is something that has carried over from the original establishment.

“I grew up in Denton, in the neighborhood right next to that park,” event chair Chrissy Mallouf said. “I was in high school whenever we built it, and that was kind of the meet-up place. Everybody would go hang out there before we’d go to friend’s houses.”

She said working with Play by Design has been a gratifying experience, and the company has told her exactly what to expect throughout every step of the process.

“Last week they were like, ‘Ok, you need to pick the colors,’ and I’m like, ‘Oh my gosh, this is overwhelming. You want me to pick color schemes?’” Mallouf said. “We were pulling up Pinterest, looking at different ideas, because you don’t want just the basic red, blue and green… if I had it my way, it’d all be hot pink.”

Born out of the imaginations of Denton’s children, Eureka 2 will be a playground unlike any other.

“In the end, it’s not our project. It’s the community’s project,” Wille said. “It helps people understand you really can change the community by pursuing a dream.”

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