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An Epic Adventure Playground Is On The Way!

It is time to remake and reimagine the landscape surrounding Exploration Place.

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A look at where Wichita’s Exploration Place is headed with playscape vision

September 28, 2023 (via Wichita Business Journal)

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Exploration Place’s planned multimillion-dollar outdoor expansion is one of the most eagerly anticipated developments in downtown Wichita.

Now, the science and discovery center has shared with the Wichita Business Journal new renderings of what the biggest piece of that effort — a $17-million playscape, described as a new generation of playground with a theme-park feel for all ages — could look like.

One image showcases a large “water play cascade,” while the other features the “aviation play grove,” which contains visual elements similar to an initial rendering released earlier this year.

In an interview last month, Exploration Place president Adam Smith said he is targeting a 2025 opening for the project that will take inspiration from Tulsa’s Gathering Place.

“I do see an opportunity for us to be in the first wave of what I am sure is going to be a worldwide phenomenon, which is thinking of a playground, not so much as a climbing frame — that kids will run around on for 30 minutes and let off some steam — but as an actual destination, that you would come and spend all day at and still not have seen and done everything,” he said.

Smith said an August visit to see family in England, where he saw a recently-opened playscape in that country’s Northumberland region, added to his enthusiasm for what Exploration Place can become.

“It’s a similar sort of size and scale of ambition that we’re shooting for, and just to see this place packed out, and most importantly, to see the kids just eating this up, it’s really inspired me to keep going on the journey we are on,” he said.

The playscape is not the only part of Exploration Place’s expansion efforts.

Funding is in place to start construction by early 2024 on an outdoor amphitheater as part of the “EP2” initiative’s first phase.

The playscape will follow in Phase 2, and Smith said fundraising efforts are progressing there in the face of economic uncertainty that can have an impact on philanthropic dollars.

“The good news is we’ve got a very supportable project,” he said.

As Exploration Place plans for the future, it has also built significant momentum in the present.

In July, Exploration Place, which is recognized as the Sedgwick County Science and Discovery Center through a partnership with the county, announced it set an attendance record in the 2022-23 fiscal year with 363,047 visitors. The science and discovery center also set a new membership record of 9,203 households — up 45% from the previous year.

Last week, the second annual Drone Light Festival at Exploration Place brought in around 11,000 people over the three-day event, Smith said.

Smith recently talked about how the first drone light show demonstrated the potential for the amphitheater on the west bank of the Arkansas River — and how Exploration Place’s location for the playscape vision is ideal.

“We’re in a naturally beautiful place here,” he said.