When Steve King took an aptitude test as a college freshman, he discovered that he had an interest in the natural environment and art. A suggested career path for these interests was landscape architecture, and after further investigation Steve changed his major from wildlife management to landscape architecture.1
For his final thesis project in landscape architecture at Iowa State University in 1967, Steve King developed the concept of “continuous play,” which allows children to move from playstructure to playstructure without touching the ground.2 When this new playground concept was finally put into reality, it revolutionized the playground industry and helped launch the new modular composite playstructures as a way to incorporate continuous play.3
After graduation while working for a planning and engineering firm in Minneapolis, Steve became the director of park and recreation planning. In 1969, Steve’s concept of a continuous playstructure was first built as a wooden structure for the City of Minneapolis. Starting his own planning firm to have more freedom to design, Steve began to build his own playstructures, which were creating interest with developers and park directors. In 1971, Steve and his wife, Barb King, founded Landscape Structures Inc. in Delano, Minnesota, to manufacture playground equipment.4 They incorporated the continuous play concept into their designs utilizing traditional playground equipment such as slides, swings, and climbing equipment.
By the 1980s the market was moving away from wooden structures. In 1984, Landscape Structures acquired Mexico Forge, which was a manufacturer of metal playground equipment. The company doubled in size with the purchase of Mexico Forge and boosted their presence in the industry.5
Within their first decade, Landscape Structures continued their innovations with VitaCourse (1977), a fitness trail system; the Track Ride (1980), an enclosed trolley; the TenderTuff (1981), a PVC-based coating for decks and handholds; and PlayBooster®, post and clamp playsystems (1981) for flexible design configurations. The following year they were also using PVC coating on benches and tables.
Landscape Structures introduced AdventureScape, a composite playsystem for preschoolers in 1985. That same year they began manufacturing their first Permalene® panels made of compression molded polyethylene.6 During the next five years, they added two more products: the Corkscrew Climber in 1987 and the Talk Tubes in 1990. For increased safety, in 1992, Landscape Structures was one of the first to use fully enclosed bolt links instead of the S-hooks usually used on swings.
Steve was appointed to the Federal Access Board's Recreation Access Advisory Committee in 1993. That same year, Landscape Structures introduced a transfer system for wheelchair access to playstructures. They also introduced the SlideWinder2, a segmented multi-directional open slide, TuffTimbers™, a molded edger and retainer system, and, in 1994, they began using sliding footers on their slides to prevent warping and cracking.
Further innovations included the Spring Ring Bouncer, a multi-age play event introduced in 1996, and the Triple Ring Fling™, an overhead event that was added in 1998. Also in 1998, Steve was recognized with Japan's G-Mark International Design Award for an AdventureScape design.7 Concerning safety, Landscape Structures' focus on elementary playground safety gained a new face in 1999 with the introduction of Arthur, a literary and television character.
Landscape Structures became ISO 9001 certified in 1996 by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) showing high quality business procedures and consistent manufacturing processes.8 Landscape Structures also earned the ISO 14001 certification in 1998 for their environmental conservation and recycling processes.9 Furthering these business standards internally, in 1999 they implemented their internal continuous improvement program to focus on being efficient in manufacturing, business procedures and deliveries. Later, in 2006, Landscape Structures was recognized as a Minnesota Waste-Wise Leader for their waste reduction and recycling efforts. Two years later, they were awarded the Tekne Green Award for their environmental awareness and responsibility, and for incorporating sustainability into their business model.
Skatewave®, a modular steel and PVC skatepark event, was introduced in 2001 with an updated 3.0 version in 2004. The modular design offers flexibility of design over time by allowing events to be reconfigured. The Skatewave Demo tour took place in 2005 and brought the modular skateparks and expert riders to 32 locations throughout U.S. and Canada.
On the playground, CoolToppers®, an integrated shade system, was introduced in 2001, and the accessible multi-rider glider, Sway Fun®, was added in 2002. The Mobius® Climber (2005) was added to Landscape Structures' product lines, which uniquely integrated art with a play event. Further innovation came in 2007 with the gyroscopic Evos™ playsystem, designed for children ages 5 to 12.
The Ridge, another climbing event, was offered in 2004. This began Landscape Structures' focus on integrating children with nature in the play space. Two more natural climbers, The Pinnacle™ rock climber and The Pointe™ rock climber, were introduced in 2007. These are designed to integrate with Landscape Structures' PlayBooster line for elementary school-aged children. Two years later, Landscape Structures formed a partnership with the National Association of Elementary School Principals (NAESP), and in 2010, they were actively supporting the Inclusive Play Movement. In February 2011, Landscape Structures was awarded the Marketplace Award from Disability Matters for providing inclusive playgrounds for children and their families.10
As the company grew, it continued to be recognized. In 2003, Landscape Structures received the National Award of Merit from Associated Builders and Contractors and the Award of Excellence from the National Association of Industrial and Office Properties. That same year their headquarters building was awarded the Project of the Year by the Minnesota Construction Association. The next year Landscape Structures was named the Manufacturer of the Year by the Manufacturers Alliance of Maple Grove, Minnesota.
Also in 2004, Landscape Structures became an employee-owned company.11 Three years later, in 2007, they were named the Business of the Year by the Delano Chamber of Commerce, and in both 2007 and 2008, Landscape Structures received the Minnesota Work-Life Champion Award for their company emphasis on a healthy work-life balance. They also received the High Economic Vitality Business of the Year Award in 2009 from the Wright County Economic Development Partnership.
Continuing their emphasis on connecting children with nature through their Play Naturally™ playground solution, Landscape Structures introduced their Tree House playground structure in 2010, which features realistic, durable glass fiber reinforced concrete (GFRC) bark climbers. That same year they began to offer The Peak™ rock climber and The Stepper™ rock climber, which are preschoolers' natural-looking climbing stones.
Beside Skatewave, Inclusive Play designs and products, Play Naturally products, fitness equipment, stand alone events, playground surfacing and site amenities, Landscape Structures offers five playsystems.12 For the 2 to 5-year-olds there is the PlayShaper® playstructure and the recently launched Weevos™ playsystem, a preschool version of the Evos playsystem. For ages 5 to 12, there is the original PlayBooster playstructure and the newer Evos playsystem. The PlaySense® playstructures encompass all ages for a more economical choice in playstructures.13
With Certified Playground Safety Inspector (CPSI) certified designers, engineers, artists, and landscape architects, Landscape Structures offers custom designs as well as their previously designed models. In all these ways Landscape Structures has sought to fulfill their mission of enhancing “children's lives by fostering and creating inspiring play experiences while honoring the environment.”14
The company partners with the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA), Autism Speaks, NAESP, the National Recreation and Park Association (NRPA), Global ReLeaf® and the Säjai® Foundation. Additionally, the company participates in the EPCOT International Flower & Garden Festival, and is active in many industry-related initiatives, including the Sustainable Sites Initiative, Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, Partnership for Play Every Day, and Voice of Play.15 Landscape Structures is also affiliated with the JCC Association, KaBOOM!, the Miracle League, Project Fit America (PFA), Shane’s Inspiration playstructure and the YMCA.16
- 1. King, Steve. “Concept of Continuous Play.” Landscape Structures. < http://www.playlsi.com/Learn-About-Us/News/Media-Room/Pages/ContiniousPlayConcept.aspx > 28 March 2011.
- 2. “Concept of Continuous Play.” Landscape Structures. < http://www.playLandscape Structures.com/Learn-About-Us/Our-History/Landscape Structures-Leadership/Continuous-Play/Pages/Continuous-Play.aspx > 14 March 2011.
- 3. “Steven G. King Play Environments Scholarship.” Landscape Architecture Foundation. < http://lafoundation.org/scholarship/leadership-in-landscape/awards-available/steven-king-scholarship/ > 14 March. 2011.
- 4. Op. cit., King, Steve.
- 5. Op. cit., King, Steve.
- 6. Twenty five years later, in 2010, Recycled Permalene panels with 73% post-consumer content were offered.
- 7. “History of Innovation.” Landscape Structures. < http://www.playLandscape Structures.com/Learn-About-Us/Our-History/Innovation/Innovation-History/Pages/Innovation-History.aspx > 20 March 2011.
- 8. This ISO 9001 Certification has been updated two more times: in 2003 to the 2000 standard and in 2009 to the 2008 standard.
- 9. This was also later updated in 2005 to the 2004 standard.
- 10. “Landscape Structures Honored with Disability Matters Marketplace Award.” Landscape Structures. < http://www.playLandscape Structures.com/Learn-About-Us/News/Media-Room/Press-Release-Archives/Pages/LandscapeStructuresHonoredwithDisabilityMattersMarketplaceAward.aspx > 24 Feb. 2011.
- 11. Op. cit., “History of Innovation.”
- 12. “PlaySystems.” Landscape Structures. < http://www.playLandscape Structures.com/Explore-Products/Product-Lines/Outdoor-Playsystems/Pages/Outdoor-Playsystems.aspx > 20 March 2011.
- 13. “PlaySense.” Landscape Structures. < http://www.playLandscape Structures.com/Explore-Products/Product-Lines/Outdoor-Playsystems/PlaySense/Pages/PlaySense.aspx > 20 March 2011.
- 14. Op. cit., “Landscape Structures Honored.”
- 15. “Partnerships & Community Outreach.” Landscape Structures. < http://www.playlsi.com/Learn-About-Us/Affilliations/partnerships/Pages/Partnerships.aspx > 21 March 2011.
- 16. “Alliances.” Landscape Structures. <http://www.playlsi.com/Learn-About-Us/Affillations/alliances/Pages/Alliances.aspx> 21 March 2011.