New interactive electronic playground game expected to give Kent kids a workout

There is a new game in town. And it's soon expected to catch the attention of kids of all ages.

NEOS, an interactive electronic playground game station where players move from one area to another to hit flashing lights on monitors before the lights disappear, debuts Oct. 2 at the Wilson Playfields, 13028 S.E. 251st St., on Kent's East Hill.

Kent Mayor Suzette Cooke and other city officials will dedicate the new equipment at 1 p.m. Oct. 2 for the grand opening of the new playground next to the popular sports fields at the park.

"We hope it will be something competitive that gets kids outside to play," said parks project manager Brian Levenhagen during a short demonstration of the game Tuesday.

Park officials first saw the game at a trade show and figured it would be a good addition to the city park system, especially at a park that attracts a lot of teens because of the numerous soccer games played at the nearby fields.

"At Wilson, we have a lot of older kids," Levenhagen said. "We wanted to try to cater to the older kids as well as the younger kids."

The game is expected to appeal to adults as well, which could mean showdowns between parents and their kids.

The play station sits about 6 feet high and 15 feet wide and offers a choice of nine games with three skill levels. The four towers feature flashing lights as well as music and other sound effects. A scoreboard reveals a player's score based on how fast and how many blinking lights they hit.

Games last from about 30 seconds to one minute and can be played by one person or two people in a head-to-head competition. The short length of the games are expected to help give everyone a chance to play if the lines get long.

"It will keep kids moving in and out," Levenhagen said.

NEOS is manufactured by Pennsylvania-based Playworld Inc. Kent park officials bought the game for $16,000 from Northwest Playground Equipment of Issaquah.

"We bought the floor model so we got a great deal on it," Levenhagen said.

Besides the new game, park crews also installed new playground structures, including a Playweb piece of equipment that offers children all types of climbing opportunities.

The cost of the playground is about $100,000, Levenhagen said. The costs were covered by city fees charged to developers to pay for park improvements.

"The funds could only be spent for park improvements," Levenhagen said.

A playground was part of the master plan for Wilson Playfields. The park opened in 2002 and is named after Barney Wilson, the city's first parks director. The city bought the parcel next to the fields in 2005 but had put the playground project on hold until funds could be secured to develop it.

Even though Wilson Playfields draws park users from across Kent, city crews installed the playground equipment and picnic tables to serve local neighborhoods as well. The playground will be open from dawn to dusk each day.

"We wanted it to be a neighborhood park as well as serve the athletic complex," Levenhagen said.

The new NEOS game is expected to be a big draw. So far, Levenhagen said Walla Walla has the nearest NEOS game to Kent.

Playworld claims on its Web site that the game helps players develop their agility, coordination, strength and stamina.

"It is a good workout, especially when you play someone else and have to move back and forth," Levenhagen said.