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New 'castle' coming to Johnson in March

Rick Wagner • Oct 11, 2018 at 7:30 PM

KINGSPORT — The “castle” replacement project at Johnson Elementary is finally a go, meaning the playground that turns 28 years old next month is about to be replaced for the benefit of generations of children to come.

Because fundraising efforts have reached the 90 percent threshold, the iconic 1990 playground — which got its name from its distinctive design and has been used by countless children — will be replaced in a community build March 5-10.

Johnson Principal Stacy Edwards said that details are still being worked out and that the project website, www.castleofkingsport.com, soon will be updated. Those who would like to help with the build will soon be able to go to the website to get information. Donations are still being accepted and will be funneled through the website.

“They should start thinking about volunteering and being food sponsors, and if they have access to tools, we’ll have a need for a lot of donations of tools and then they’re returned after the project is done,” Edwards said. For the five days of the community build, he said, at least 60 volunteers will be needed for three four-hour shifts or 180 volunteers a day.

The project is being designed by Play by Design.

Edwards said some involved in the process initially thought the project would have a fall build, but that wouldn’t allow enough time for planning. 

Asked if a major donor pushed the funding to the 90 percent level, Edwards said that an announcement on that matter might come later. Planning for the replacement project began in 2015, but a lack of funding delayed the project. The Johnson Parent Teacher Organization (PTO) has had a series of fundraisers for the project. Early on, the fundraising included pickets to have the names of donors or to honor folks. Edwards said that fundraiser has concluded but that all the purchased pickets will be part of the project.

“We are still working with Play by Design on the final costs based on donations and available options we would like to include in the project,” Edwards said Wednesday. “It’s going to take us some more time to get the exact figures nailed down.”

In June, the PTO president said the cost of the new playground would be about $189,000 and at least 70 percent of the funding needed to be in hand to schedule the build.

Ninety percent of $189,000 is $170,100. The website, not revamped as of Thursday, indicates a goal of $200,000, and 90 percent of that is $180,000.

“The percentage we discussed previously may not fully take into account all that we hope to accomplish. I think it is safe to say that we have made significant progress with our fundraising efforts, but are still actively fundraising,” Edwards said.

The original playground was constructed during a community build in November of 1990 and was called the Andrew Johnson/Civitan Community Play Structure, according to Kingsport Times News articles about the construction. Edwards said Play By Design will use some composite material that should allow the new structure to outlast the old wooden one.

According to information from the city, the playground is the second most-used one in Kingsport, behind Darrell’s Dream Playground at Warriors Path State Park.

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