SWANSEA — Does a free outdoor fitness center membership sound exciting? Since more than a few people are likely to answer in the affirmative, expect Swansea Memorial Park to soon become an even more popular destination.
A 80-by-40-foot fitness court for ages 14 and older is expected to be open for use very soon, perhaps by mid-November. The actual court work is done. The town highway department, which did the site prep work, is now finishing the court perimeter work, including drainage.
The NFC Fitness Court is at the north end of the park, across Milford Road from the entrance to Case High School and on the opposite side of the park road from the recently renovated playground and tennis courts.
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The mostly ocean blue court is two-sided, divided by a wall. One side is essentially an open 20-by-20-foot exercise studio for yoga and aerobics. The other side offers seven stations for low-impact and agility exercising, with rings and bars attached to the wall and user-friendly blocks for stretching and core work. Instructions, visual and written, are on the wall.
The fitness court was itself was built in about three days by the National Fitness Campaign, which partners with Massachusetts Blue Cross Blue Shield.
Fall River recently installed a similar fitness court, also sponsored by the National Fitness Campaign and Blue Cross Blue Shield, in Britland Park. It opened in August.
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How Swansea paid for the fitness center
Former Parks Superintendent Matt Beane discovered the grant opportunity with Blue Cross Blue Shield and the Massachusetts Interlocal Insurance Association. The town last spring approved $125,000 for the project.
According to Town Administrator Mallory Aronstein, Beane believed the fitness court would be a “good addition to the park,” especially with the popularity of the walking path built in 2021. The court is right along the path.
The overall cost for materials and installation is $199,100. The town obtained $100,983 in grant money — $50,000 of that through NFC/Blue Cross Blue Shield, the rest from MIIA wellness grants.
Aronstein said that about $6,000 from the public buildings budget was used for materials. And the town paid for the Highway Department’s work, which Aronstein labeled “priceless. They’re so talented and so good.”
The Highway Department installed the tiles on the studio side, giving the town a $7,000 project credit.
How to use the fitness center
The court, Aronstein emphasized, will be compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act regulations and available for group exercise classes.
She said she foresees the court being a gathering place for fitness-minded people, helping community seniors to age in place, and for community members to live healthy, active lives. She emphasized numerous times during a site visit recently that the fitness court is not a playground.
The fact that this is an outdoor fitness court, Aronstein said, is appealing to the many with COVID concerns.
The seven court stations are core, squat, push, lunge, pull, agility and bend.
Included in the fitness court price is, on the side of the wall facing Milford Road, the town name in very large lettering.
“It really just is a symbol to bring the town together, the community together” Aronstein said.
Adjacent to the fitness court, on Milford Road, stands the preserved, town-owned, two-story, and boarded-up Gardner House. The house obscures view of the Swansea lettering from the street. Aronstein said the park commissioners have requested demolition but when that option was placed on warrant, the Historical Commission asked for time to get pricing for renovating. She said the selectmen agreed to delay, “but we still haven’t received final numbers. I think we will have to address demolition in the spring. It’s looking very bad.”