Grand Prairie, Texas: Giving the Gift of Play

November 1, 2015, Department, by Mariana Espinoza

Grand Prairie (Texas) Parks, Arts and Recreation Department is in the process of creating a mega recreation center called The Epic.The Grand Prairie (Texas) Parks, Arts and Recreation Department has accomplished much during the past decade, including being awarded the NRPA Gold Medal Award (2008), receiving numerous state and regional awards in design and programming, having its Director, Rick Herold, honored as an American Academy for Parks and Recreation Fellow, and opening new parks and facilities such as the award-winning 50-plus active adult center, The Summit. Grand Prairie is at it again with its current project — a mega recreation center called The Epic.

On May 10, 2014, Grand Prairie residents voted to combine revenues from two local sales taxes to be used to build a mega recreation center that will include a library, indoor/outdoor water park, amphitheater, trails and gigantic playground. The playground, named PlayGrand Adventures, will be a destination playground for people of all ages and abilities. PlayGrand Adventures will be located at Central Park, a regional 177-acre park that includes five lakes. The Epic will be within walking distance of PlayGrand Adventures, and together, PlayGrand Adventures and The Epic (including Epic Waters the indoor/outdoor water park), will change the way Grand Prairie residents and neighbors in the Dallas/Fort Worth metroplex experience play and leisure.  

Building the Dream

The PlayGrand Adventures project committee consists of individuals from the community, local and national organizations, and the City of Grand Prairie Parks, Arts and Recreation Department. During the past five months, staff members have been working closely with architects from HKS and TBG on the playground design, which involves accessing individual pod design, theming and selecting playground equipment. The playground is scheduled to open in 2017 and will feature wide ramps for wheelchairs, safety rails, padded and concrete surfacing, large restrooms, equipment that is accessible by all at different heights, plenty of shade and specialized swings, and a retractable roof for play year-round, just to name a handful of features. It will also feature various areas that focus on social, emotional, sensory, physical and cognitive needs. At build-out, PlayGrand Adventures will comprise 10 acres. 

The Gift of Play

To make PlayGrand Adventures a reality, the Grand Prairie Parks, Arts and Recreation Department is working closely with the Texas Recreation and Parks Foundation, which is spearheading fundraising for the project. In addition to the traditional in-kind donations, and differing levels of partnership and donor opportunities, the Grand Prairie Parks, Arts and Recreation Department has reached out to the community with an EPIC Tile project as a way to cultivate involvement in and to share the excitement about the project. For $10, anyone can purchase and decorate a ceramic tile and will have the opportunity to see their artwork incorporated into the design of PlayGrand Adventures. In just four months, more than 200 tiles have been sold at community events. 

A profile completed by the Texas Workforce Investment Council reported that Texas has the second highest number of people with disabilities. Dallas County has an estimated 232,580 individuals with disabilities and, of those individuals, the largest number has ambulatory disabilities. Grand Prairie Parks, Arts and Recreation Department is committed to providing all-inclusive, accessible recreation programs and facilities. The department’s adaptive golf program and adaptive swim lessons are popular classes, and this playground is another step toward meeting the needs of all our citizens. PlayGrand Adventures is expecting to exceed at least $5 million in partnerships through the support of the community and friends who see a need and believe in inclusive play. In the words of Grand Prairie’s Mayor, Ron Jenson, “We don’t want to just build things to say we built them. We want to change people’s lives for the better.” 

PlayGrand Adventures is already having a positive effect on the community by engaging it and strengthening its support to make a project of this magnitude a reality. Park staff and committee members, including Texas Scottish Rite’s Hospital for Children’s Therapeutic Recreation Director, Dana Demsey, have spent countless hours speaking with citizens to get their ideas about what would make the playground experience welcoming and inviting and about the types of amenities, including safety features, they think would benefit everyone. This gift is for everyone, from the parents who may have ambulatory and non-ambulatory children, to the adults who may be physical impaired, and PlayGrand Adventures will allow all visitors to interact, socialize, recreate and share in the gift of play. 


Mariana Espinozais the Senior Recreation Supervisor for the City of Grand Prairie, Texas Parks, Arts and Recreation Department.