When we last took a look at The Imagination Station in 2017, it was looking a bit sad. Arsonists had destroyed a chunk of it, but even beyond that, the structure just seemed pale, rusty, and scuffed. At the time, I supposed the playground could possibly hang on for another decade. However, only a year later, I learned it was being replaced.
The new Imagination Station opened in November, 2018, and I recently visited the park for the first time since the remodel.
One of my initial reactions upon approach was that there was a definite sense of familiarity.
In fact, it's almost as if whoever designed it tried to use the same basic footprint as before. There are quite a few things that have been replicated....
Painted dragon then:
Painted dragon now:
Airplane-ish thing then:
Airplane-ish thing now:
Random green hand then:
Alien's green hand now:
Short, covered metal slide then:
Short, covered metal slide now:
Wooden wonderland then:
Wooden wonderland now:
Many other features from the original playground have also been replicated, often in almost the same location as before. These include: a covered curly slide, a "volcano", a row of swings, and a designated area for smaller children. I guess if something works, why mess with it?
What's gone and/or not replicated? The zip line. The moving stairs. Those are the first two that come to mind.
A giant rope climbing pyramid:
Several spinny rides and teeter totters:
And, in the children's area, a brightly-painted barn, wagon, etc.
There are many homages to the Northwest throughout....
^ Bigfoot, or as my niece called it, a brown naked guy.
This new-and-improved Imagination Station would get full marks if it was just being judged on looks and atmosphere. Those things are great.
However, one longtime Imagination Station "problem" persists, and a new problem has reared its ugly head.
Problem? It's really easy to lose your kid in this place.
It's difficult to see anyone who's running around in the structure. The wood slats are close together, the railings are tall, and there's just so much OF it. It's a fun playground partly because of its size, but its size is one of the reasons it's hard to keep track of the little ones.
Especially when they can easily run through small spaces, like this:
And I am only slightly embarrassed to confess that I smacked my head on low beams on this playground three times in less than an hour.
The old structure was made of mostly wood. That has been replaced by some kind of composite material. And I know its no picnic to hit your head on a piece of wood, but this new stuff seemed to be so much harder!
What's more, it seems like there was no thought given to people's height. See that seemingly random beam 4 feet above the ladder? There are beams like that everywhere. Some are at 2 feet high. Some are at 3 feet. And all these various heights of roofs and beams = the tendency to misjudge your clearance and give your head a solid whack.
And yes, I know this structure wasn't designed for adults, but if you want to keep an eye on a kid, you almost have to follow them through these small openings sometimes. And they're everywhere.
Maybe on my next visit I'll wear a hard helmet and risk the weird looks.
My two nieces, ages 2 and 4.5, were both short enough to be spared any head injuries (that I know of), and they enjoyed their time here. Later, the older one was talking about wanting to return. So only their poor aunt seemed to have any issue with the "new & improved" Imagination Station.