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Title:
Ball activity area and activity centers therefore
Kind Code:
A1
Abstract:
An enclosed play area comprises a front wall, a back wall, side walls, and a ceiling which define an enclosed area. The front, back, and side walls, and the ceiling are formed from intersecting frame members which define an area having a geometric shape. One or more activity stations are mounted to the frame members in the enclosure. Each activity station comprises at least one tub in which one or more hoops are mounted, the hoops being sized to allow a ball to be thrown through the hoops. The tub has a rim defining a mouth, wall surfaces extending rearwardly from the rim, and a back. The rim has a geometric shape corresponding to the geometric shape of the area defined by the frame members. The tub is mounted to the frame members such that the mouth of the tub does not protrude substantially into the play area. Preferably, the front, back, and side walls, and the ceiling are covered by a transparent or see-through material.


Inventors:
Hamons, Scott (Mooresville, NC, US)
Brooks, Jonathan (Charlotte, NC, US)
Cattoni, Donald (Huntersville, NC, US)
Nagelski, Keith (Huntersville, NC, US)
Application Number:
10/155673
Publication Date:
11/27/2003
Filing Date:
05/24/2002
Primary Class:
Other Classes:
473/431, 473/416
International Classes:
A63C19/10; (IPC1-7): A63B67/00; A63B69/00
View Patent Images:
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Attorney, Agent or Firm:
POLSTER, LIEDER, WOODRUFF & LUCCHESI (763 SOUTH NEW BALLAS ROAD, ST. LOUIS, MO, 63141-8750, US)
Claims:
1. An enclosed play area comprising: a front wall, a back wall, side walls, and a ceiling which define an enclosed area; the front, back, and side walls, and the ceiling being formed from intersecting frame members; the intersecting frame members defining an area having a geometric shape; one or more activity stations mounted in the enclosure; each activity station comprising at least one tub in which one or more hoops are mounted, the hoops being sized to allow a ball to be thrown through the hoops; the tub having a rim defining a mouth, and wall surfaces extending rearwardly from the rim, and a back; the rim having a geometric shape corresponding to the geometric shape of the area defined by the frame members; the tub being mounted to the frame members such that the mouth of the tub does not extend substantially into the play area.

2. The enclosed play area of claim 1 wherein the front, back, and side walls are covered with a see-through material.

3. The enclosed play area of claim 2 wherein the ceiling is covered.

4. The enclosed play area of claim 1 wherein an activity station comprises two tubs mounted separately from each other; each said tub including a port in at least one of the tub wall surfaces; and a tube having one end mounted to the port of one tub and a second end mounted to the port of the other tube to place the two tubs of the activity station in communication with each other.

5. The enclosed play area of claim 4 wherein at least one of said tubs has a hoop.

6. The enclosed play area of claim 5 wherein said hoop is mounted to a wall of said tub opposite a port in said hoop; said tube being oriented, and said hoop being positioned, such that a ball exiting said tube will can pass through said hoop.

7. The enclosed play area of claim 1 wherein said hoop is a multi-hoop; said multi-hoop comprising a horizontal hoop and a plurality of diagonal hoops extending from said horizontal hoop; said diagonal hoops being spaced about said horizontal hoop and connected to adjacent diagonal hoops.

8. The enclosed play area of claim 7 wherein said diagonal hoops extend upwardly from said horizontal hoop.

9. The enclosed play area of claim 7 wherein said diagonal hoops extend downwardly from said horizontal hoop.

10. The enclosed play area of claim 1 wherein said activity station includes an upper panel positioned above said tub and a lower panel positioned below said tub; said upper and lower panels each including at least one port; said activity station including a tube extending between the ports of the upper and lower panels to place said ports in communication with each other, said tube being sized to allow a ball to pass through said tube.

11. The enclosed play area of claim 1 wherein said hoop is a multi-rim hoop; said hoop including a horizontal rim and a vertical rim extending from said horizontal rim and being generally perpendicular to said horizontal rim.

12. The enclosed play area of claim 11 wherein said vertical rim is positioned at a front of said horizontal rim.

13. The enclosed play area of claim 1 wherein said tub includes two or more separate hoops mounted in said tub said hoops being spaced vertically and/or horizontally from each other.

14. The enclosed play area of claim 13 wherein said hoops are spaced vertically and horizontally from each other.

15. The enclosed play area of claim 14 wherein said top wall of said tub is stepped to define a forward portion and a rear portion of said top wall; said top wall rear portion being lower than said top wall upper portion; there being a first hoop mounted to said top wall forward portion and a second hoop mounted to said top wall rear portion; said hoops being generally parallel to each other.

16. The enclosed play area of claim 15 wherein said activity station includes a third hoop mounted to said tub back wall; said third hoop being spaced rearwardly of and below said second hoop.

17. The enclosed play area of claim 16 wherein said third hoop is a multi-rim hoop and comprises a horizontal rim and a vertical rim.

18. A modular activity station mountable on a wall of a play area; the activity station comprising: a tub having a rim defining a mouth, a top wall, a bottom wall, and side walls extending rearwardly from the rim, and a back extending between said top, bottom and side walls; two or more separate hoops mounted in said tub said hoops being spaced vertically and/or horizontally from each other.

19. The modular activity station of claim 18 wherein said hoops are spaced vertically and horizontally from each other.

20. The modular activity station of claim 18 wherein said top wall of said tub is stepped to define a forward portion and a rear portion of said top wall; said top wall rear portion being lower than said top wall upper portion; there being a first hoop mounted to said top wall forward portion and a second hoop mounted to said top wall rear portion; said hoops being generally parallel to each other.

21. The modular activity station of claim 20 wherein said activity station includes a third hoop mounted to said tub back wall; said third hoop being spaced rearwardly of and below said second hoop.

22. The modular activity station of claim 21 wherein said third hoop is a multi-rim hoop and comprises a horizontal rim and a vertical rim.

23. A modular activity station mountable on a wall of a play area; the activity station comprising: a tub having a rim defining a mouth, a top wall, a bottom wall, and side walls extending diagonally rearwardly from the rim, and a back extending between said top, bottom and side walls; said tub being generally in the shape of a truncated pyramid; and at least one opening in said tub; said opening being sized to allow a ball to pass therethrough.

24. The modular activity station of claim 23 including a hoop mounted in said tub; said opening comprising said hoop; said hoop being mounted so that a ball thrown into said tub can pass through said hoop.

25. The modular activity station of claim 24 wherein said hoop is a multi-hoop; said multi-hoop comprising a horizontal hoop and a plurality of diagonal hoops extending from said horizontal hoop; said diagonal hoops being spaced about said horizontal hoop and connected to adjacent diagonal hoops.

26. The modular activity station of claim 25 wherein said diagonal hoops extend upwardly from said horizontal hoop.

27. The modular activity station of claim 25 wherein said diagonal hoops extend downwardly from said horizontal hoop.

28. The modular activity station of claim 24 wherein said hoop is a multi-rim hoop; said hoop including a horizontal rim and a vertical rim extending from said horizontal rim and being generally perpendicular to said horizontal rim.

29. The modular activity station of claim 28 wherein said vertical rim is positioned at a front of said horizontal rim.

30. The modular activity station of claim 23 including a panel mounted to the front of the tub; the panel comprising a bottom edge spaced from a bottom of the tub rim and at least one opening in the panel; the tub opening comprising said at least one panel opening; the distance between the panel bottom and the tub bottom defining a gap sized to allow the ball to pass therethrough.

31. The play area of claim 30 wherein said panel includes a plurality of openings through which a ball can pass.

32. The play area of claim 31 wherein said panel openings comprise two or more different shaped openings.

33. A play area comprising: at least one wall formed from intersecting frame members; the intersecting frame members defining an area having a geometric shape; one or more activity stations mounted to said wall; each activity station comprising at least one tub in which one or more hoops are mounted, the hoops being sized to allow a ball to be thrown through the hoops; the tub having a rim defining a mouth, and wall surfaces extending rearwardly from the rim, and a back; the rim having a geometric shape corresponding to the geometric shape of the area defined by the frame members; the tub being mounted to the frame members such that the mouth of the tub does not extend substantially into the play area.

34. A play area comprising: at least one wall formed from intersecting frame members; the intersecting frame members defining an area having a geometric shape; one or more activity stations mounted to said wall; each activity station comprising at least one tub; the tub having a rim defining a mouth, and wall surfaces extending rearwardly from the rim, and a back; the rim having a geometric shape corresponding to the geometric shape of the area defined by the frame members; the tub being mounted to the frame members such that the mouth of the tub does not extend substantially into the play area.

35. The play area of claim 34 wherein one or more hoops are mounted in the tube of at least one of the activity stations, the hoops being sized to allow a ball to be thrown through the hoops.

36. The play area of claim 34 wherein a panel is mounted to the front of the tub of at least one of the activity stations; the panel comprising a bottom edge spaced from a bottom of the tub rim and at least one opening in the panel; said at least one opening being sized to allow a ball to pass therethrough; the distance between the panel bottom and the tub bottom defining a gap sized to allow the ball to pass therethrough.

37. The play area of claim 36 wherein said panel includes a plurality of openings through which a ball can pass.

38. The play area of claim 37 wherein said panel openings comprise two or more different shaped openings.

Description:

CROSS-REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATIONS

[0001] Not Applicable.

STATEMENT REGARDING FEDERALLY SPONSORED RESEARCH OR DEVELOPMENT

[0002] Not Applicable.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

[0003] This invention relates generally to enclosed or stand-alone play areas in which children can engage in various ball throwing activities, and activity centers for use in the play area.

[0004] Enclosed play areas have become vary popular. For example, many fast food restaurants include enclosed play areas adjacent to their eating areas. Such play areas however, are generally limited to climbing equipment, slides, ball pits, etc. Additionally, because of the size of the elements or components of such play areas, they are typically used by small children (i.e., younger than about 4-8 years old). Similar play areas are used in community centers, family entertainment centers, and other places where it is desirable to have enclosed play areas. However, as noted, the enclosed play areas are generally limited to slides, ball pits, etc.

BRIEF SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

[0005] To increase the range of activities available to children in enclosed or standalone play areas, the present invention provides an enclosed activity area which is directed mainly to ball throwing activities. Because the enclosed play area avoids the slides, climbing elements, and ball pits typical of currently enclosed or indoor play areas, the enclosed play area of the current invention will be appealing to older and larger children, and even adults.

[0006] The enclosed play area comprises a front wall, a back wall, side walls, and a ceiling which define an enclosed area. The front, back, and side walls, and the ceiling are formed from intersecting frame members which define areas having a geometric shape. One or more activity stations are mounted to the frame members in the enclosure. Each activity station comprises at least one tub in which one or more hoops are mounted, the hoops being sized to allow a ball to be thrown through the hoops. The tub has a rim defining a mouth, wall surfaces extending rearwardly from the rim, and a back. The rim has a geometric shape corresponding to the geometric shape of the area defined by the frame members. The tub is mounted to the frame members such that the mouth of the tub is generally flush with an inner surface of the wall or ceiling to which the tub is mounted. Preferably, the front, back, and side walls, and the ceiling are covered by a transparent material, such as a mesh, fencing, or a plastic barrier. Preferably, the material is one which cannot be climbed easily by children.

[0007] The activity stations can take on many different configurations, and are essentially limited by size and space. In one example, the hoop is a multi-hoop having a horizontal hoop and a plurality of diagonal hoops extending from said horizontal hoop. The diagonal hoops are spaced about the horizontal hoop and connected to adjacent diagonal hoops. The diagonal hoops can extend either upwardly or downwardly from the horizontal hoop.

[0008] In another example, the hoop can be a multi-hoop having two hoops—a horizontal hoop and a vertical hoop which is generally perpendicular to the horizontal hoop.

[0009] The activity station can be provided with panels positioned above and below the tub. The panels are provided with a port, and the ports of the two panels are connected via one or more tubes through which a ball can pass.

[0010] The activity station can also include two or more hoops mounted in the tub, with the hoops being spaced vertically and/or horizontally from each other. To space the hoops both vertically and horizontally from each other, the top wall of the tub can be stepped to define a forward portion and a rear portion of the top wall, with the top wall rear portion being lower than the top wall upper portion. A first hoop is mounted to the top wall forward portion and a second hoop mounted to the top wall rear portion, with the hoops being generally parallel to each other. A third hoop can also be mounted to the tub back wall. The third hoop is preferably spaced rearwardly of and below the second hoop. The third hoop can be a multi-rim hoop and comprises a horizontal rim and a vertical rim.

[0011] The activity station can also comprise two tubs. Tubes extend between the tub ports and place the tubs in communication with each other. One of the tubs is also preferably provided with a hoop. The hoop (which can be a single or multi-rim hoop) is mounted to a wall of the tub opposite the port in said tub. The tube is oriented, and said hoop is positioned, such that a ball exiting said tube will can pass through the hoop.

[0012] In another variation of the activity station, the activity station can comprise a panel mounted to the front of the tub. The panel includes a bottom edge spaced from a bottom of the tub rim and at least one (and preferably two or more) opening in the panel. Further, the openings preferably have two or more shapes—for example, the openings can be circular, square, or diamond shaped. The panel openings are sized to allow a ball to pass therethrough. The distance between the panel bottom and the tub bottom defines a gap sized to allow the ball to pass therethrough. Further, the shape of the tub causes the ball to return (i.e., pass back out through the gap) when a ball passes through one of the openings.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE SEVERAL VIEWS OF THE DRAWINGS

[0013] FIG. 1 is a perspective view of an illustrative enclosed ball play area of the present invention having a plurality of modular activity stations positioned on a framework;

[0014] FIG. 2 is a partial side elevational view of the enclosed ball play area;

[0015] FIG. 3 is a further perspective view of the play area with the mesh of the walls removed for purposes of clarity;

[0016] FIG. 4 is a further perspective view of the play area;

[0017] FIG. 5 is a perspective view of a tub on which the modular activity stations of the play area are based;

[0018] FIG. 6 is a perspective view of a first activity station of the play area;

[0019] FIG. 7 is a plan view of a second activity station of the play area;

[0020] FIG. 8 is a perspective view of a third activity station of the play area;

[0021] FIG. 9 is a second perspective view of a second portion of the third activity station;

[0022] FIG. 10 is a perspective view of a fourth activity station;

[0023] FIG. 11 is a perspective view of a fifth activity station;

[0024] FIG. 12 is a perspective view of a sixth activity station; and

[0025] FIGS. 13 and 14 are front and back plan views of a seventh activity station.

[0026] Corresponding reference numerals will be used throughout the several figures of the drawings.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE INVENTION

[0027] The following detailed description illustrates the invention by way of example and not by way of limitation. This description will clearly enable one skilled in the art to make and use the invention, and describes several embodiments, adaptations, variations, alternatives and uses of the invention, including what I presently believe is the best mode of carrying out the invention. Additionally, it is to be understood that the invention is not limited in its application to the details of construction and the arrangements of components set forth in the following description or illustrated in the drawings. The invention is capable of other embodiments and of being practiced or being carried out in various ways. Also, it is to be understood that the phraseology and terminology used herein is for the purpose of description and should not be regarded as limiting.

[0028] An illustrative enclosed play area 10 of the present invention is shown generally in FIGS. 1-4. The play area 10 includes front, back, and side walls 12 and a cover 14. The walls preferably are not solid walls. Rather, the walls include vertical and horizontal frame elements 16 and 18, respectively, which cross each other at right angles to define quadrilateral areas 20 (which are preferably square or rectangular). Modular activity stations are mounted in several of the areas 20. The remaining areas are closed by a transparent or see-through material, such as a mesh, fencing, or other transparent material which can withstand the impact of balls being thrown at it. Preferably, the material cannot be easily climbed. The use of the mesh also allows people (such as parents) outside the play area 10 to view the activity inside the play area. A door 22 is hingedly mounted in one of the front, back, or side walls, to allow for entry into, and exit from, the play area 10.

[0029] The various activity centers are centered around a common tub 30 (FIG. 5). The tub 30 is generally in the shape of a truncated, four-sided pyramid. The tub 30 has four short side walls 32 which are perpendicular to each other. The side walls 32 define a rim which extends perpendicularly to the wall (or cover) of the play area when the tub is mounted to the play area frame. The walls 32 are preferably all the same length and define a generally square mouth or opened end of the tub 30. Sloped side surfaces 34 extend inwardly from the side walls 32. A generally square back surface 36 extends between the ends of the sloped side surfaces, and is generally centered relative to the walls 32. The back surface 36, which lies in a plane parallel to the wall (or cover) of the play area to which the activity station is mounted, is smaller in area than the area defined by the walls 32. Preferably, the height and width of the back wall 36 is about ½ of the height and width of the walls 32. Hence, the area of the back wall is about ¼ of the area defined by the walls 32. A pair of holes 38 are formed in the back wall to allow for connection of hoop mounting brackets (as will be described below) to mount ball hoops in the tub. The holes 38 define a line perpendicular to one of the edges of the back wall 32. The two holes, which are spaced apart slightly from each other are located closer to one edge of the back wall. For example, in FIG. 5, the holes 38 are positioned closer to the bottom edge of the back wall. Additionally, as seen in FIG. 5, the holes are located approximately mid-way between the vertical or side edges of the back wall. Thus, the holes 38 are generally centered with respect to one set of opposing edges of the back wall, and are off-set from the center with respect to the other set of opposing edges of the back wall.

[0030] The tub 30 is mounted to the frame elements 14 and 16 by brackets 40 (as seen in FIG. 7) such that the walls 32 of the tub do not protrude substantially into the play area. Preferably, the tub mouth is generally flush with the rear (or outside) of the frame elements 16 and 18. By mounting the tub such that the mouth walls 32 do not extend substantially into to play area (and preferably do not extend into the play area at all), hinging on the rims by children should be minimized. Rather, children, to the extent that they hang onto elements of the play area, will hang on the frame elements which form the enclosure. If they do hang on the bottom walls of the tubs, then the child's weight will be supported by the horizontal frame element below the bottom wall of the tub mouth.

[0031] The brackets 40 include a tubular section 42 which is sized to fit around the frame elements 16 or 18 and an arm 44 extending from the cylindrical section. The tub 30 is mounted to the bracket arm 44, for example by fasteners which extend through the tub walls 32. The fasteners can be screws, bolts, etc. The tubular section 42 can, for example, be shaped to simply snap onto the frame section. Alternatively, it can extend around the frame section, and use fasteners to fix the bracket in place on the frame member 16 or 18.

[0032] A first activity station 50 is shown generally in FIG. 6. The activity station 50 includes a tub 52 having a multi-hoop 54 mounted to the back wall 56 of the tub. The hoop 54 includes a mounting plate 58 which is secured to the tub wall 56 in any conventional manner. A horizontal hoop 60 is mounted to the mounting plate 58, for example, by arms 62. Three diagonal hoops 64 are mounted to the horizontal hoop 60 and extend upwardly from the horizontal hoop 60. The diagonal hoops 64 (all of which are circular) are secured to the horizontal hoop 60 at locations 66 spaced apart by 120°. Adjacent diagonal hoops are then secured together, as at 68. The tops of the diagonal hoops 64 are closer together than the bottoms of the hoops where the diagonal hoops are secured to the horizontal hoop. However, the diagonal hoops are not closed at the top. The tops of the diagonal hoops define a space which is sized to be smaller than the ball used to throw though the hoops.

[0033] Panels 70 are mounted to the play area frame elements 16 and 18 above and below the tub 52 of the activity station 50. The panels 70 each include two adjacent openings or ports 72. The openings of the upper panel are connected to the openings of the lower panel by tubes 74, as best seen in FIGS. 3 and 4. Thus, for example, the left opening of the upper panel is connected to the left opening of the lower panel; and the right opening of the upper panel is connected to the right opening of the lower panel. Alternatively, the tubes 74 could cross over, such that the upper right opening is connected to the lower left opening, and the upper left opening is connected to the lower right opening. Hence, the upper and lower openings are in communication with each other. Rings 76 surround each of the ports 72. The tubes 74 include flanges (not shown) at their ends, and fasteners extend through the rings 76 and the tube flanges to secure the tubes in place. Although the panels 70 are shown to include two openings or ports, they could instead be provided with a single port and tube, or three or more ports and tubes. The activity station 50 can be altered to omit the tub 52, leaving only the two panels 70 and their associated tubes. In this instance, the two panels can be connected via a flat panel, to form a unitary piece, as seen in FIGS. 13 and 14, and as described below. Conversely, the panels 70 can be omitted, leaving only the tub 52.

[0034] As can be appreciated, activity station 50 actually involves two activities. The first involves the tub 52 with the multi-hoop 54. Balls can be thrown through the diagonal hoops 64 with the intent that the ball will then fall through the horizontal hoop 60. This activity is increased in difficulty when the ball is bounced off one of the sloped surfaces 53 or the back wall 56 of the tub 52 prior to the ball passing through the diagonal hoops 54. The diagonal surfaces of the tub also allow the ball to return to the play area, and the ball will not get stuck inside of the tub. In the second activity, a ball can be thrown, such that it enters one of the top panel openings 72. The openings 72 and the tubes 74 are sized to allow the ball to pass easily therethrough. Hence, if a ball is thrown into one of the top panel openings, the ball will be returned through the corresponding lower panel opening.

[0035] The second activity station 80 (FIG. 7) is generally similar to the activity station 50. The activity station 80 includes a tub 82 to which a multi-hoop 84 is mounted. The multi-hoop 84 is identical to the multi-hoop 54 (FIG. 6). However rather than the diagonal hoops extending upwardly, as in the activity station 50, the diagonal hoops extend downwardly. The play area 10 is also shown to include a solid walled hoop 86 which is mounted to one of the vertical frame members 16 adjacent the activity station 80.

[0036] A third activity station 90 is shown in FIGS. 8 and 9, and can be seen in full in FIG. 2. The activity station 90 is a ceiling mounted station which includes two of the tubs 92a,b which are mounted in areas 20 that are kitty-corner from each other. The tubs 92a,b of the station 90 each include ports 94 in two adjacent sloped surfaces 96 of the tubs, as best seen in FIGS. 8 and 9. Tubes 98 extend between the ports of the two tubs 92a,b to place the ports 94 of one tub in communication with the ports of the other tub. As with the panels 70 of the first activity station 50 (FIG. 6), rings 99 surround the ports 94 to secure the tubes 98 to the tubs 92a,b. As seen in FIG. 9, a hoop 100 is mounted in the tub 92b on one of the sloped surfaces of the tub. The hoop 100 is positioned on a surface opposite one of the ports 94. Preferably, the hoop 100 and the port 94 are positioned on their respective walls, and the tube 98 has a slope such that, when a ball exits the port 94 with sufficient speed, it can pass through the hoop 100. As can be appreciated, the object of the activity station 90 is to throw a ball through the port 94 in the tub 92a with sufficient force, such that the ball will then pass through the hoop 100 in the tub 92b. Although the tubs 92a,b are shown mounted to the play area ceiling, the tubs could also be mounted to one of the play area walls, such that one of the tubs is above, below, on the same level as, or diagonal to, the other tub. Additionally, the tubs 92a,b can be next to each other, rather than kitty-corner to each other when mounted on the ceiling.

[0037] A fourth activity station 110 is shown in FIG. 10. The activity station 110 includes a double-hoop 112 mounted to the back wall 114 of a tub 116. The double hoop 112 includes a horizontal hoop 118 which is mounted to the mounting plate 120 of the double hoop 112. A vertical hoop 122 is then mounted to the front of the horizontal hoop, as at 124, to be generally perpendicular to the horizontal hoop. A pair of support arms 126 extend between the horizontal and vertical hoops. The activity station 110 can be used in several different ways. One can attempt to throw a ball through the vertical hoop, such that it then passes through the horizontal hoop. The sloped walls of the tub can also be utilized, such that the ball bounces off of one of the sloped walls and then passes through one of the hoops 118 or 122.

[0038] A fifth activity station 130 is shown in FIG. 11. The activity station 130 includes a plurality of hoops mounted in a tub 132. The tub 132 is slightly different from the tub 30 on which the other activity stations are based. The tub 132 includes a rim 134 defining a square which is sized and shaped to be mounted in one of the areas 20 defined by the vertical and horizontal frame members of the play area walls. The rim forms side portions 134a, a bottom portion 134b, and a top portion 134c. Side walls 136 extend diagonally inwardly from two opposed side portions 134a of the rim 134, a bottom wall 138 extends from the rim bottom portion 134b, and a top wall 140 extends from the rim top portion 134c. A back wall 142 then extends between the back edges of the top, bottom and side walls. The top wall 140 is stepped, as at 144 to define a forward portion 146 and a back portion 148. As can be seen, the top wall back portion 148 is lower than the top wall forward portion 146. Additionally, the junction 150 between the back wall 142 and the bottom wall 138 is curved. That is, the junction 150 forms a smooth transition between the back wall and the bottom wall of the tub—there is not a sharp corner at this junction, as there are with the other junctions in the tub 132.

[0039] Although the activity station 130 is shown to include three hoops, it could be provided with only two hoops. For example, the back hoop 158 could be omitted. Alternatively, either of the hoops 154 or 156 could be omitted. Further, the activity station 120 could be provided with a single one of the hoops 154, 156, or 158.

[0040] The activity station 130 includes a first hoop 154 mounted to the top wall forward section 146 near the front edge of the forward section. The hoop 154, as seen, is a vertical hoop, and is generally perpendicular to the top wall forward section. A second hoop 156 is mounted to the top wall inner section 148 near the front edge of the back section (i.e., near the step 144). The second hoop 156 is also a vertical hoop. As can be appreciated, because the top wall back portion is lower than the top wall forward portion, the second (or back) hoop 156 is lower than the first (or forward) hoop 154. A third hoop 158 is mounted to the tub back wall 142. The hoop 158 is a double hoop, and is identical to the double hoop 112 of the activity station 110 (FIG. 10) However, the double hoop 158 is mounted to the tub back wall 142 such that its vertical hoop 160 extends downwardly from the horizontal hoop 162, rather than upwardly. The third, double hoop 158 is positioned to be behind the second hoop 156. As noted above, the second hoop 156 is behind, and partially below, the first, front hoop 154. Hence, a player can throw a ball such that it passes through the front hoop 154, the back hoop 156, and through the horizontal hoop 162 of the double hoop 158. The curvature of the junction 150 between the back and bottom walls of the tub will cause the ball to roll forwardly along the bottom of the tub, to return the ball to the player.

[0041] Another activity station 170 is shown in FIG. 12. The activity station 170 is based on a tub 172 similar to the tub 132 of the activity station 130. However, the tube 172 could be similar to the tub 30 of FIG. 5. The station 170 includes a panel 174 having a top edge 175, a bottom edge 176, and side edges 177. The panel bottom edge is shown to be wavy, but could be straight, or provided with any other desired configuration. The panel 174 is sized to extend across the tub 172. However, the panel height is such that there is a gap between the panel bottom edge 176 and the bottom of the tub. The gab between the panel bottom edge and the tub bottom is sized to allow a ball to pass beneath the bottom of the panel. The panel 174 is provided with several openings 178. As shown, the openings can be of different shapes. Square, diamond, and round openings are shown, but other shapes through which a ball can pass can be used. The holes can all be different shapes, or some of the shapes can be repeated. Further, six openings are shown, but depending on the size of the panel, and the size of the openings, more or fewer openings could be formed in the panel. The station 170 is a type of Skeeball. The object is to throw the ball though the various openings. The openings 178 can be provided with point values 179, to allow players to “keep score”. The shape of the tub wall cause the ball to roll out the bottom of the tub through the space between the tub bottom and the panel bottom. The panel can also be sized to provide for a gap between the panel top edge 175 and the top of the tub 172. Such a gap would also be sized to allow a ball to pass therethrough. A gap above the top of the panel could be provided with an additional point value.

[0042] Lastly, the activity station 180 shown in FIGS. 13 and 14 is based on the panels 70 of the activity station 50. However, the activity station 180 does not include a tub and basket. Rather, the activity station 180 includes an elongate panel 182 having a plurality of openings 184 at the top and bottom of the panel. The same number of openings are formed at both the top and bottom of the panel. For example, the panel 182 is shown to include three openings 184 at the top and the bottom. However, two openings could be provided or four or more openings could be provided. The panel top openings are connected to the panel bottom openings by tubing 186 which extends between the openings. The openings 184 and the tubing 186 is formed as described above in conjunction with activity station 50 and panels 70 to mount the tubing 186 to the panel 182. Preferably, the openings 184 are connected by the tubing 186 such that the exit opening does not correspond with the entrance opening. For example, in FIG. 13, the top left opening is connected to the bottom right opening; the top middle opening is connected to the bottom left opening; and the top right opening is connected to the bottom middle opening. The object of the activity station 180 is to through the ball through the top openings. The ball will then pass through the tubing 184 and exit the panel 182 at the bottom opening.

[0043] As can be appreciated, the enclosed play area is centered around ball throwing activity stations. The size of the play area can be increased or decreased as desired. The number, arrangement, and position of activity stations which are mounted in the play area can also vary. For example, one or more of the activity stations can be excluded from a play area. More than one of any of the activity stations can also be included in a play area. The position of the activity stations on walls can be changed depending on the age group of children which will use the play area. For example, the height of the activity stations can be lowered for smaller children and raised for older children. Alternatively, a single play area can have activity stations that are of varying heights to accommodate children of different size and skill levels. Further, other activity stations, not disclosed herein, can be included in the play area without departing from the scope of the invention. For example, hoops can be mounted on the tub side walls. The tubs of different activity stations can be interconnected via tubes to, in effect, combine different activity stations. Additionally, the play area is not intended to be limited to the activity stations shown and described above. In fact, the play area can include various other types of backboards and activity stations, including activity stations which are not centered or built around the tub. Preferably, the hoops (and balls) are smaller than standard basket ball hoops and balls. However, the hoops and balls used in the play area can be made to most any desired size.

[0044] Further, the rims of the tubs for the various activity stations are all the same size. Hence, the activity stations are modular, and the modular activity stations can be removed from the play enclosure for repair or replacement. Additionally, one modular activity station can be replaced with a new activity station, or the arrangement of the modular activity stations can be rearranged, if desired. As can be appreciated, the use of modular activity stations gives the designer and operator of the play area a significant amount of freedom in the placement of activity stations in the play area. Additionally, older activity stations can be replaced with newer activity stations (which may or may not be the same as the older activity stations) with very little down time in the operation of the play area.

[0045] As various changes could be made in the above constructions without departing from the scope of the invention, it is intended that all matter contained in the above description or shown in the accompanying drawings shall be interpreted as illustrative and not in a limiting sense. For example, the frame members of the play area walls are shown to define square areas, and the tubs are all based on a square rim. However, the tubs could be based on a rim which is, for example, triangular, pentagonal, hexagonal, etc. The frame members would then similarly intersect to form correspondingly shaped areas in which the tubs can be mounted. Although the invention is described with respect to an enclosed play area, it will be apparent that the tubs or activity stations can be mounted to a single wall (or an overhead ceiling), and not be part of an enclosed play area. These examples are merely illustrative.





 
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