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50 Years at Play

Many people remember the days of the freestanding slides, swings and monkey bars. But in 1967, that idea of playground design advanced to interconnected play components. The revolutionary idea of combining playground activities is known as the continuous play concept, which was created by Steve King, cofounder and chairman of Delano, Minn.-based Landscape Structures Inc. As his final thesis project at Iowa State University, Steve developed a system that linked play activities together to provide a continuous challenge for children. His premise was that if kids are together on one structure, they’ll learn things that they will use in real life like social and conflict-resolution skills.

Barb & Steve King

While his thesis only scored him a C+ grade, Steve took his continuous play concept to his first job as a landscape architect specializing in park planning. In 1969, he was assigned a playground design project for the City of Minneapolis where he was able to put his approach in action. His first playground was a success, which lead to more interest. And in early 1971, Steve and his wife Barb King obtained a $1,000 loan and incorporated Landscape Structures to design and build commercial playstructures.

The First Playground

The company began to see steady growth in the late 1970s and 1980s, which lead to building expansions, acquisitions, and sales growth at home and overseas. By the mid-1990s, Landscape Structures had expanded like crazy, which lead Steve and Barb to implement the kaizen approach to lean manufacturing. Kaizen created efficiencies in the manufacturing and business processes, and even the engineering and product development process.

In an effort to provide great play experiences for kids, Landscape Structures has always been committed to innovation. Hedra®, the company’s latest invention, allows kids to safely navigate via their own intuition and curiosity, and invent routes, games and imaginary environments. Landscape Structures has a long-standing commitment to inclusive play and are breaking barriers with the We-Go-Swing™, the first no-transfer inclusive swing that can be integrated directly into the playground setting. In addition, the use of innovative materials and the development of colors that are truly inspired by nature is changing the world of playgrounds.

As Landscape Structures moves into its 50th year of business, the company is taking time to reflect on the power of play. With the challenges posed by the ongoing pandemic, the value of play and recreation is being recognized for its role in health, wellbeing and fun. And that’s why the team at Landscape Structures—nearly 500 employees and the network of more than 200 playground consultants worldwide—are proud to provide unique play opportunities for all ages, abilities and backgrounds. Because no matter what’s happening in the world, we come back to play.

Published on May 5, 2021