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Friday, May 7, 1999 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Magnuson Playground Opens -- At 20,000 Square Feet, Volunteer- Built Facility Biggest In Seattle

Seattle Times Staff Reporter

Seattle's largest - and newest - playground survived fire and rain to become a symbol of volunteerism.

Built by the Junior League of Seattle as part of the organization's 75th anniversary celebration, the 20,000-square-foot playground was to be dedicated at 1 p.m. today at Magnuson Park, 7400 Sand Point Way N.E.

As a national nonprofit organization of women promoting volunteerism, it was fitting the Junior League would work on a project that called on the help of volunteers, said Mary Herche, the league's co-chairwoman.

After surveying 18 parks in Seattle in 1997, the league selected Magnuson Park because of its abundance of open space.

After raising $313,000, league and community volunteers devoted hours to clearing and landscaping the area.

"It was really neat to see the different types of people volunteering," Herche said. "Quite a few said it was the best experience of their life."

The playground, built at the site of the former control tower for Sand Point Naval Air Station, was scheduled to open in October. But a fire at the company contracted to supply the playground equipment delayed its completion. The playground was rescheduled to open in December, but heavy rains flooded the area.

"We've seen fire and we've seen rain," Herche joked.

The property originally was owned by the city. The league was to deed it back to the city at the dedication ceremony today.

The bubble-shaped play equipment, in royal blue, mandarin

orange, and brick red, fills the diamond-shaped lot.

The playground's theme - "air, land and sea" - is reflected in four jungle gyms. They're built to resemble an airplane hangar, boat, air traffic-control tower and headquarters. There are also two swing sets and a basketball court.

The Junior League is also creating an endowment fund for maintenance of the playground.

Copyright (c) 1999 Seattle Times Company, All Rights Reserved.

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