Even before it opened in 1995, the board of directors wanted to build a play area next to the Carousel for children and families to expand the Carousel experience. They decided the best way to ensure the play area would be loved by all was to enlist the help of experts. They turned to the children of Missoula for creative vision and a company that specializes in building playgrounds, Leathers & Associates, for design and building guidance.
Robert Leathers, founder of the playground construction company, came to Missoula in September of 2000. Bob visited area schools to find out what Missoula kids wanted in their play area. The lists were long, but several common themes emerged. Kids wanted a dragon–better yet, a dragon with three heads! Kids wanted the dragon to have internal organs–like a stomach on which they could bounce. Kids wanted slides–if one was 25’ high and made two complete circles before hitting the ground, so much the better. Kids wanted an obstacle course–climbing, jumping, bouncing, a variety of activities. Kids wanted a special area for smaller children–who wants to watch out for tots when you’re taming a dragon? Kids wanted telephones–if you get lost in the maze, you gotta have a way to call mom.
Bob developed a list of organizational tasks and assigned them to volunteers. The committee members understood they would be gathering everything necessary to build a play area in just five days.