Manatee County commissioners and members of the Bradenton Kiwanis Club gathered on Jan. 30 to celebrate the groundbreaking on a state-of-the-art playground that will be accessible to all children.
Kiwanis donated $784,000 to the county in May 2023 to build a playground in compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act. It was also a celebration of the club’s 100th anniversary.
“We needed a big project, something that we could take our first hundred years and connect it to the next hundred years,” former Kiwanis Club President Neil Unruh said.
The club’s motto is “to change our community one child at a time,” said Mike Gagnon, a recreational consultant with Advanced Recreational Concepts, the company installing the playground.
Gagnon said the playground will accommodate over 400 children at a time.
“The main difference in regards to the playground unit is that it has a ramp entry, so a wheelchair can actually get onto the equipment,” Gagnon said. “It also has a lot of ground-level play, where kids can be in a wheelchair accessing play and they don’t even have to go up the ramp.”
The playground will also feature a merry-go-round, a climbing wall and zip lines.
Kiwanis is paying for the entirety of the playground, but Manatee County is adding onto the project with a splash pad. CFO Sheila McLean said the splash pad was approved in December and has a budget of $578,000.
The playground equipment is already on site, so it’s expected to be finished by the spring. The splash pad will start construction in the spring or summer.
Lesley Dwyer is a staff writer for East County and a graduate of the University of South Florida. After earning a bachelor’s degree in professional and technical writing, she freelanced for the Sarasota Herald-Tribune. Lesley has lived in the Sarasota area for over 25 years.