PNA Play Passage promotes active fun

PNA Play Passage promotes active fun
By ana-maria

by Eric Jusino, Facilities Director

The PNA Play Passage is a fully grant-funded, play-focused project comprising painted elements in the lower lot (completed in May 2020) and nature-based play structures like rocks, logs, and climbing elements in the outdoor classroom south of the Blue Building (completed Fall 2020).

The project is 100 percent funded by the King County Youth and Amateur Sports Grant (YASG), awarded in 2017 and designed to support fit and healthy communities. YASG invests in programs and capital improvements that reduce barriers to access physical activity. Johnson + Southerland Landscape Architects designed the Play Passage, Urban Artworks, and Danneko Construction built its various elements.

Why did we create the Play Passage?

PNA programs and neighbors have been using the overflow lot and outdoor classroom as play spaces for years, but there was lots of room for improvement over a blank parking lot and a fairly open woodchipped area in which the most fun things were pine cones dropped from one of the big trees in the area.

The overall goals of the Play Passage were:

  • Increase all-ages play opportunities
  • Use nature-based elements
  • Connect the south side of the Phinney campus

(Click on drawings to enlarge)

rendering of painted playground


What did we do?

The Play Passage project has spanned a few years and has changed a few times along the way before settling into its current (and very cool) form as a play area south of the Blue Building.

Watch a video tour:

When we originally received the YASG in 2017, we were in the process of finishing up a site master plan update and explored ways to use the grant to help fund the play space enhancements. We eventually found that the geotechnical engineering requirements meant we’d have to do the whole project at once and could not just do some play improvements. We tabled the hillside update and pivoted to what is now the PNA Play Passage.

PNA re-hired Johnson + Southerland (J+S) Landscape Architects to create a stand-alone play space on the south side of the Blue building. J+S worked with PNA partner programs Phinney Neighborhood Preschool Co-op, Phinney Cooperativa Preescolar en Español, YMCA, as well as PNA staff and other childcare building users, to come up with a nature-based design that would enhance the playability of the space for all ages.


Stage 1: Overflow parking lot painted play elements
Urban Artworks painted play elements in our lower overflow parking lot in Fall 2019 and Spring 2020. The goal was to increase play opportunities for all our space users while maintaining parking spaces. The paintings have proven to be a big success, with kids, teens, and adults playing kickball and basketball, riding bikes, trikes, and all sorts of vehicles along pathways created by the elements, walking the labyrinth, and creating their own games.

Painted concrete play court


Stage 2: Outdoor classroom natural play elements
Danneko Construction created accessible pathways and installed boulders, logs, and climbing elements throughout the outdoor classroom area south of the Blue Building. Danneko also updated the alley gate to a more friendly design with a small gate for humans to enter the space. This area has seen a bit increase in use, with kids attending programs held at PNA and neighbors using the space to play, climb, jump, dig, and hang out.

play boulders


What’s next?

We have a few finishing touches to install, including climbing panels, climbing holds for the vertical poles, a tent for the central area, and new coverings for the south fence. We’re already talking with the various summer camp programs that operate at PNA about ways that they can use and improve the space!