Many people have a bit of sticker shock when they see how much commercial playground equipment costs. They often ask me, “why is this stuff so expensive?” I wanted to take some time today to explain all that goes into manufacturing and designing commercial playground equipment, and hopefully convince you that in all reality, commercial playground equipment is pretty affordable.

Raw Materials For Manufacturing Commercial Playgrounds

The average sized commercial playground has as much steel in it as a luxury sedan. Steel is in high demand, the price is ever fluctuating. Commercial playgrounds are not built with just any kind of steel, the steel that is used must meet ASTM guidelines, so premium grade steel is used in the construction. That steel then has to be treated through a process called galvanization to prevent rust, another expense. That steel must be transported to the playground manufacturing plant, with the rising costs of fuel this is a very expensive endeavor.

Playground Hardware

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Most people overlook the small details on a playground like hardware. Hundreds, if not thousands of nuts, bolts and screws of all different shapes and sizes, most of which are made of tempered steel with tamper proof button shaped heads for safety. This type of hardware is extremely expensive. Just go to your local hardware store and try to find a bolt of similar quality, you will easily be paying $1.50 per piece.

Playground Plastic 

Most people look at plastic as an affordable material. You will find a lot of plastic on a commercial playground equipment, from the roofs, to panels and slides. This is no ordinary plastic. This plastic is designed to withstand the elements and UV rays for a lifetime. The plastic also has to be injected into molds to create these enormous structures, and some cases even roto-molded a time consuming and expensive process.

Overhead In Playground Manufacturing

The overhead for a large playground manufacturer is truly enormous. Any given manufacturer has hundreds of pre designed and engineered units to choose from, most offer custom structures as well, making the possibilities for playgrounds limitless. Let’s take a look at some of the overhead that goes into playground manufacturing.

Playground Manufacturing Employees

Before that pretty new playground you have was installed, it came a long way. Fist, it was conceived by a playground designer, drafted piece by piece. Then that design had to go to an engineer, who made sure that it was structurally sound and safe. Once the final design was determined, production began on the floor. Metal workers had to cut, shape and weld tons of pieces of raw steel to make the playground. Painters and coaters had to coat everything to prevent rust and make it last a life time. Other employees had to package everything and make certain all the hardware was in order. This is just a quick summary of the people who would be involved in manufacturing a playground, the truth is there are even more, including the sales people, and all of the other traditional departments you would find in a larger corporation like accounting, human resources, etc.

Even More Overhead For Playground Manufacturing

Ever notice how enormous commercial playgrounds are? Imagine trying to build one in your garage, or better yet, building a hundred in your garage every month. It wouldn’t be possible. The plants were playgrounds are manufactured are huge. They have to have room to store a massive amount of raw materials, and even more room for the tradesmen and production crews to build the playgrounds, then store them until shipping. The cost to run welders, paint machines, forklifts, air conditioning, heating, water and lights in a facility that size is mind boggling.

Another aspect people overlook is all of the liability a playground manufacturer must pay for. Manufactures insurance is always expensive, but for playground equipment it is perhaps the highest as the client (children) are far more likely to injure themselves than an adult. In addition, no judge in the world would rule in favor of an big corporation over an injured child. This is a huge expense for playground companies, but just one of many. Every playground that is manufactured must be tested by a third party such as IPEMA to ensure quality and safety compliance. This is not a free service and costs a lot of money as well. On top of all this, they have lifetime warranties that they must uphold, which in itself is a constant expense.


This is but a small example of what goes into manufacturing playground equipment, dozens of people, machines and hundreds of man hours. Every piece crafted by hand. So next time you see the price tag on your playground, remember all that went into producing it.