Feature Article - November 2010
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Finding Space

Making Room for Fitness Programming

By Wynn St. Clair


Partnership Pays Off

Poquoson is not alone in its school alliance. With programming space a precious commodity, more and more recreation managers are mining local schools for floor space. In Kamas, Utah, the South Summit Aquatic and Fitness Center embodies such a perfect partnership with an innovative design that allows the center to easily transition from a physical-education resource to a community health club several times a day.

Built in a recreation-minded community, the 52,400-square-foot building's design encourages the center's dual purposes through an open layout that minimizes hidden spaces. It also has separate doors for students and the public. With limited hiding places and controlled access points, educators can keep better tabs on students and prevent visitors from entering the school area.

The center, which is owned by the local school district, features a signature aquatic component with dramatic open space, interactive play areas and two pools. The first is a traditional six-lane, 25-yard competition pool. The other is a leisure pool complete with a 150-foot-long helical slide and a children's play area that includes a tot slide and water cannons. It also has a six-foot-wide lazy river that can be used for floating fun or a water-resistance workout.

The building also houses an indoor track, fitness room and aerobics room. The aerobics room, which cheerleading squads often use for practice, has mirrors mounted on one wall as well as a dual-height dance barre. The room can accommodate several different activities, including dance, karate, kickboxing and yoga.

The facility's centerpiece, however, is its climbing wall. The 32-foot wall pays tribute to the Uinta Mountain range in which the Kamas Valley lies. The wall, which serves as the main focal point as one drives into the center, also gives the school system an invaluable opportunity to teach climbing safety to young students.

"It really has been a success," facility manager Stephen Sutherland said. "We're attached to the middle school, in walking distance from the high school and the elementary school is in sight."

The operating hours are dictated by the school schedule, meaning the building is closed for most of the day so students can use the facility for physical education classes and athletic team practices. The general public can use the facility between 5 a.m. and 9 a.m., and then again between 12 p.m. and 1 p.m. and 2:30 p.m. until 9 p.m. When school is closed for things like parent-teacher conferences, the fitness center is open to the public all day.

They aren't traditional workout hours, but Sutherland said the school board has worked hard to build enthusiasm and understanding for the endeavor. And it seems to have worked. Not only is the facility enjoyed by many of Kamas' 5,000 residents, but the building also draws patrons from Park City and other neighboring communities.

"One of the keys to our success has been having the support of the board and the community," Sutherland said. "The community has to buy in to the hours we give them. They have to have patience."

The partnership allows the facility to offer recreation opportunities at an extremely reasonable price. A family of seven, for example, can buy a membership for $290 annually. Residents over 60 can use the facility for free.

And by teaming with the school, the fitness center can offer a wide variety of programs, including tai chi, a diving team, drop-in soccer activities and recreation classes for home-schooled children. Facility managers have come up with several creative events, such as dodgeball tournaments and triathlons. Its aquatic center has also made a big splash with things like Swim with Santa and the Pumpkin Plunge, in which participants swim in a pumpkin-filled pool and then pick a gourd to decorate and take it home. It also has a "dive-in" movie night during which families can come and watch films at the pool.

"We've got an amazing board that had the foresight to do what they did," Sutherland said. "We try to utilize as much as we have to benefit all of the people we have."