SC eyes building fitness court

March 22, 2019

UNION MILLS — South Central Community School Corp. officials are looking to breathe new life into the school’s deteriorating unused tennis courts — all without spending a single taxpayer dime.

Superintendent Theodore Stevens informed the SCCSC Board of Trustees during its meeting March 12 that his office had applied for a grant from the AARP to renovate one of the aging tennis courts into a Fitness Court, a free public outdoor gymnasium. The school corporation will look to cover the entire cost of the construction project through the grant, which could provide up to $120,000 in funding, Stevens said on March 13.

A nationwide project through the San Francisco-based National Fitness Campaign, Fitness Courts are spaces where people of all ages and skill levels can perform body weight workouts. Located at each court are a series of stationary bars and rings, which users can employ to perform seven exercises that can be completed in as many minutes.

Stevens and other officials have discussed possible solutions for renovating South Central’s ailing tennis courts, which the school has not used for at least 10 years due to a lack of participation in the tennis program. The spaces currently suffer from weed and fencing issues, the superintendent said.

After one of the school’s maintenance personnel told the leader about the AARP grant program, Stevens learned the dollars could be spent to create a Fitness Court, which the superintendent thinks would be an effective way to utilize one of the courts in a fiscally responsible way, he said.

Stevens first learned about the concept while serving as an assistant superintendent with the School City of Mishawaka, after officials installed a Fitness Court inside the city’s Central Park last year, he said. According to the National Fitness Campaign, Fitness Courts are currently located in more than 4,000 cities, with an additional 200 communities expected to install facilities this year.

Besides revitalizing the space, the Fitness Court would also address another area of concern — a lack of gyms or other fitness venues in the Union Mills community, Stevens said.

“If South Central had an opportunity for something like this, for adults to exercise as they feel appropriate, it could really be a nice advantage for our community,” Stevens said to the board.

The superintendent added that the Fitness Court’s equipment would be static, so it would be fairly tamper-proof and should last “for the long haul.”

Following his presentation, Board of Trustees Vice President Geraldine Grott told Stevens the Fitness Court concept sounds wonderful, but she is concerned the idea may violate any agreements the school made with donors who provided funds for South Central to build the tennis courts years ago. Stevens responded that the corporation is trying to locate information on the subject, but has been unsuccessful thus far.

“At the same time, I would counter, does our current tennis court live up to anybody’s expectations for what that area should be?” Stevens said.

As the fitness area would only encompass one of the tennis courts, the corporation could utilize the other space for racket sports, a basketball court or other athletic uses, Stevens said.

“We want to make it so the facility will be an inviting place for the community to come work on their fitness goals,” Stevens said.

Officials should know by June 1 whether the AARP has awarded the school corporation any grant dollars for the Fitness Court, Stevens said. If so, the board will need to approve the funding and construction project, which could be completed as soon as fall if given the green light, Stevens said.