Backyard parks

Kurt Lorenz, left, and Chris Camilleri work on assembling the

Swing sets and play equipment are bulky but provide kids with
years of enjoyment and exercise
George Vukcevich had two children when he decided to install a backyard swing set in his family’s Morgan Hill home, but he didn’t want to buy something that his children would tire of “in 15 minutes.”

Instead of the standard metal and wood swing set that many a baby boomer can recall from their own childhoods, Vukcevich decided to sink $5,000 into a redwood play area like the one his children enjoyed at the park. In 2000, with the help of installers from a Sunnyvale play equipment provider named Rainbow, he created a private area they could play in and that he and his wife could monitor from the house as the family got bigger.

Now a father of four, Vukcevich sees the play set, with it’s ITS three swings, tire swing, rope swing and slide as indispensable. Still, at $1,400 to $6,000 or more for a complete set, these backyard behemoths aren’t cheap. But the versatility and durability of the updated classic, now billed as childhood exercise equipment by companies like Indiana-based Swing Sets, Inc., has South Valley residents making room for these large structures in their own yards.

“During the spring and summer time they’re out there daily,” he said, referring to the King Kong-sized structure that even his now-11-year-old still likes to play on. “The youngest is two, so I figure that’s another 10 years we’ll get out of it.”

San Martin-based paving contractor Gary Lorenz decided to get into the swing set business after fielding incessant customer requests for the structures while he was laying custom game courts in area homes. He now retails products from the Swing Sets, Inc. line.

With the swing set portion of his business open just under a month, Lorenz has already had a steady stream of interest in the sets, made of Southern yellow pine. Three families are lined up to have the sets installed this week, he said.

The play sets are a budget crunch, especially for average parents, who are younger couples trying to make ends meet in a tough housing market, acknowledged Lorenz, but the modular packaging of the sets makes price ranges very flexible, he said.

“If you just want something to start with, you can pick out a fort you like, and you don’t have to have swings or slides to get started,” said Lorenz. “Or you can make it really, really big. You can hook two sets, like the giant gym and the junior gym together with a catwalk to make more play space.”

Installation of the wooden gyms is not complicated, but can take a while. Unlike the lightweight metal sets, which had to be mounted in cement to be able to withstand the weight of children playing on them, the wooden sets only need to be planted in the area where they’ll be set up. The wood is pressure-washed and pre-treated, and the sets come with pre-drilled holes and instructions for those who want to set them up on their own, said Lorenz.

“Most of them come with the walls and the floors for the fort areas already built, and the company says that two guys can do it in four hours, but I’m not sure about that,” said Lorenz. “The biggest one we’ve got took us two days to put up.

“You’ve got to have help, but if you’re patient and you’re not in a hurry, you just need a ratchet, a screwdriver, an Allen wrench and a hammer and drill if you want to clear out some of the holes. You also need the space, which means a lot of people have to use up their yard or tear out some things to get the open area.”

The process sounded so simple, Vukcevich wondered why the Sunnyvale company that delivered his children’s backyard play set wanted $600 to install it, but when the men who did the work showed up, his questions vanished.

“They got there at 10am and didn’t leave until probably 8 or 9, but they got it done,” said Vukcevich, who added that the investment has been worth every penny.

Vukcevich even hopes he’ll get a return on his investment. The set, he figures, will retail for around $2,000 used, because he pressure washes and re-seals the redwood structure every other year. The only thing he’s not sure of is how the eventual buyer will move the swing set, which measures 20-by-15 feet.

For more information on wooden swing sets, contact Lorenz at (408) 842-4057 or (408) 835-9597, or view his display at the corners of Monterey Road and California Avenue in San Martin. The Home Depot also sells modular swing set pieces. Their Gilroy store can be reached at (408) 847-7712.

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