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Minnesotan To Meet: Todd Lehman Of Cre8Play

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- Most of us go to work each day.

I don't know many people who call it going to "fun."

But that's not true for one business in New Hope.

Todd Lehman has worked more than 20 years building playgrounds.

In 2006, he took it up a notch.

Forget just slides and stairs. Nearly anything is now possible at company, Cre8Play.

It's that childlike imagination that makes him this week's Minnesotan to Meet.

At Cre8Play, there's a stock pile of tequila, and people get around the office on scooters.

"I didn't want to do anything corporate, I haven't worn a tie since 2004," Lehman said.

Even the conference room at Cre8Play has pinball machines and a lazy dog.

Lehman is sort of like a Peter Pan.

"I refuse to [grow up]" Lehman said.

Why would he want to?

His work is bringing smiles to kid's faces around the world.

"There's hundreds, everything from a full environment to a small climbing boulder," Lehman said.

There are now non-traditional playgrounds in Guam, Guatemala, Mexico, Canada, Australia, and nearly all 50 states.

"The one I'm working on ends up being my favorite one," Lehman said.

He grew up in New Hope, where he was always creating.

"I built forts and took a part radios and built these crazy things," Lehman said.

After years at his parent's traditional playground building company, he branched out and helped Woodbury develop a nature-themed park. He started Cre8Play with just a laptop and a cell phone.

"I was trying to come up with a creative name for the company," Lehman said. "It actually goes back to my AOL days when you could only have seven characters and Todd L was taken."

Now, you'll always find the number 8 in each project.

It's often the hidden objects that keep grown-ups intrigued.

'We want to get them playing side by side with the kids," Lehman said.

The studio is located in the same place he grew up in New Hope, which also leads to personal gains, with Deb.

"We grew up 12 blocks from each other, never knew each other and got set up on a blind date when we were 21, and from there we've been together ever since," Lehman said.

Twenty-one years and three kids later, he didn't just want to make cool playgrounds, but accessible ones.

"You see that smile on their face and it brightens their day, I still get goosebumps thinking about it," Lehman said.

There are often seated spaces and hand grips built into each work that aren't obvious.

Concrete material is used, not only because it can be recycled later.

"Everything we build has to be drunk college kid baseball bat proof," Lehman said.

It all has to be safe, meeting tough regulations, and they may make each of these already unbelievable structures just that much more impressive.

Lehman calls himself design guy.

The structures can cost anywhere from $1,500 to $1 million.

It's not just cities looking for new places to play, but malls and adaptive schools.

Besides using concrete, which can be recycled, their paint is water based, so they're constantly trying to be environmentally friendly, too.

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