Innovation Takes Center Stage: NRPA Conference 2019
Splash pads, swing sets, and slides oh my! The National Recreation and Park Association Conference this year was highlighted by the culmination of new interactive displays, software, services, and yes even robots! Here are some of my favorite happenings from the event.
Upon first entering the conference floor of the Baltimore Convention Center, I was immediately stunned by the sheer size and scope of some of these displays. As I walked the floor and got a general sense of the companies and products that were being displayed this year, there seemed to be a consistent theme. Natural impact. I was able to speak with Andris Zobs COO of ID Sculpture, who mentioned that this year the main focus was pointing towards these play structures seamlessly blending into the natural environment.
One of the displays that really highlighted this concept was the Burke Nucleus Evolution structure. I got a chance to speak with Sarah Lisiecki about their use of biophilia when constructing their structures. She mentioned that they are organically attempting to bring the feeling of nature back into the play environment. However, hands down, the most interactive exhibit award has to go to the team at Landscape Structures. I was able to relive my childhood when climbing up their new structure and zipping to the bottom on the slide! Another great life sized display was over at the Berliner booth, showcasing their new Quadrifol structures, a rope play environment design hailing from their German headquarters.
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Parks aren’t just about playgrounds though. I found numerous products being displayed specifically for the athlete in mind. Like the innovative field marking robots at Turf Tank, and the outdoor active solutions brought to you by GreenFields Outdoor Fitness. I was even able to test out my soccer skills at the Musco Mini Pitch display put on with the US Soccer Foundation. Their LED lighting solutions help significantly reduce the glare athletes might traditionally encounter during nighttime games. While other solutions, like those coming from HyLite, have specific energy and cost saving benefits by giving off more lumens, through less watts.
I had the pleasure of speaking with a few companies that were seasoned veterans when it came to this event. One being the team over at Dog Wash Systems USA, who have been helping dog parks stay revenue neutral with their systems, since 2009! Along with the gentlemen at the ProMinent, who walked me through their UV water pumps that help keep water play environments, contaminant free.
There were also a few Mavericks of Marketing that stood out to me. One group was the team over at Amilia, bringing ease back into membership management with their software solutions. Another being the fun VR demo over at the Cre8Play booth! As well as the PartyMachines guru Greg Gordon, who really showed all the attendees what it meant to make the show a memorable experience.
All in all, after everything that I saw, and all the wonderful people I was able to talk with. I would easily say that parks and recreational environments are not so much more than areas just to play or stay active. They are environments uniquely designed for everyone in mind, through the use of innovative products, and software solutions alike. NRPA Conference 2019 definitely didn’t run with the herd.