The Art of Outdoor Fitness
Main Terrain in Chattanooga, Tennessee
By Joseph Bush
If you've ever been at the playground with your kids and wondered why there weren't such areas for adults, Chattanooga, Tenn., will be the place for you next summer.
In the spring or summer of 2013, the city will open Main Terrain, a 1.72-acre plot of land that will be significant in many ways. Is it an art showcase? Is it a public park? Is it a crossfit exercise area?
One last question: Can it spark revitalization of a downtrodden section of Chattanooga?
Maybe, but the possibility of Main Terrain attracting people and thus businesses was a major inspiration for the ideas and actions that culminated in a groundbreaking in late October. Brought to that point with a true community effort, Main Terrain will feature movable structures more than 20 feet high, reminiscent of a landmark Chattanooga bridge, a running track, five customized exercise stations designed for grownups and a stormwater management system.
Main Terrain is located along West Main Street on a 1,000-foot-long former railroad right of way. While the East Main Street area is one of the city's public-art beacons, not so its directional opposite.
"A place full of tumbleweeds," is how Mike Alley describes the neighborhood.
Alley has owned getBUILT Chattanooga CrossFit since 2008, and moved his gym a stone's throw from what is now the Main Terrain construction site. Alley said he wanted to help with the city's push to grow what's known as the Southside; moving his business there was just the beginning.
Alley partnered with Chattanooga outdoor equipment manufacturer PlayCore and its GameTime division to design the fitness aspects of Main Terrain—the track and five concrete "fitness nodes" of 15 by 20 feet, each containing a different piece of exercise equipment specially conceived by Alley and PlayCore. Alley says the exercise structures will be rugged rather than the whimsical and colorful equipment traditionally seen in children's play areas.
There will be suspended rings to swing on and traverse, Alley said, and pommel-horse-type challenges. Crossfit focuses on a variety of movements, done at high intensity, he added—"a lot of work in a short amount of time."
Alley said he is excited to incorporate the park into crossfit programs for his 150 members. The workouts will serve two purposes: shake up the indoor grind in a safe, traffic-free place, and draw interest to the park from passersby.
"Seeing our people there on a regular basis will kind of give people an idea of what they can do there or here's how to use that," Alley said. "This is going to raise the profile of what's possible in a public space, another step in the evolution of an opportunistic approach to fitness. Here's what's possible.
"This might spark some interest for folks who might otherwise be sedentary. It's just another tool in the box. A value-add. A place to be a monkey."