KidZone children’s play center soon to open | SierraSun.com

KidZone children’s play center soon to open

Katherine Morris

A rainforest in Truckee?

Local kids and families will soon have a tropical place to play, learn and socialize with the opening of the long-anticipated KidZone sometime in the next couple of weeks.

The 3,600-square-foot metallic dome, sandwiched between Sierra Mountain Middle School and Tahoe-Truckee High School, will house the Sierra Nevada Children’s Museum, Truckee Family Resource Center and a giant jungle gym.

The idea for KidZone first emerged more than two years ago, when a group of local social service agencies and parents began looking for ways to utilize funding through tobacco tax dollars from Proposition 10 to benefit the community.

The town broke ground on KidZone a little over a year ago and since then has relied mostly on the work of parents and community volunteers who’ve eagerly rolled up their sleeves and given up their weekends to work on the project.

Aside from play areas, exhibits, parenting classes and counseling services, ZidZone will also house an extensive mural created by local artist and architect Ron Gaunt, which sets the jungle theme of the community center.

“We really liked the jungle theme because we thought it would be neat to have a tropical setting since we’re located up here in the snowy, arctic weather, and have to endure such long winters,” said Ruth Hall, director of Sierra Nevada Children’s Services.

“It seemed like it would be great to walk in from a snow drift and find a bright, colorful jungle setting with big green leaves and wild animals. It’s kind of a fantasy setting where people can feel like they’ve traveled away to some exotic place.”

And exotic it is, with multi-colored parrots, dense foliage and grinning orangutans swinging from palm trees.

The mural, which envelops the KidZone entryway, will play a crucial role in how people will receive the center, according to Hall.

“From the minute they walk in the door, [the mural] really sets the tone of the environment as being one of fun and exploration,” she said.

Muralist Gaunt said he first got involved with the project after KidZone planners sent out a call to local artists for mural concepts.

“After meeting with committee members and learning that a jungle-theme play structure had already been purchased, I came up with the orangutan as the central theme piece for the mural,” Gaunt said. “I’ve been working on several children’s books in which the orangutan was the main character. They’re cute and fuzzy, and they’re kind of unusual.”

Gaunt said the community has been really supportive of the project, which has taken him more than 40 hours to complete. Mountain Hardware offered discounted prices on paint for the mural and numerous community members have even gotten out their own brushes to assist with painting.

“I think [KidZone] is going to be a very lively, active space,” Gaunt said. “It’s really going to be a tremendous place for kids, especially in the winter time when they can’t really be outside too much. It will also be a great community center overall and the location is perfect.”

For more information on KidZone, please call 587-KIDZ.