What started as an idealistic class project for three college seniors becomes a reality soon with the opening of a new outdoor fitness center at Elmwood Park.
The outside gym — popular in Japan and common in prisons on the West Coast, but a first for Omaha — aims to encourage people to get in a workout as they stroll or hang out at the park, located near 67th and Pacific Streets.
Elmwood Park Fitness Center will include eight pieces of equipment, including a rowing machine, a sit-ups bench, a double leg press, stretching bars, two elliptical machines, a shoulder press machine and other pieces similar to what you would see in a conventional gym. It will be located near the park's playground, close to the swing set.
The stainless steel equipment is weather-resistant and can hold up to a lot of wear and tear.
“Parents can keep active while their kids are playing,” said Michaela Schenkelberg, one of the three students who envisioned the project.
Schenkelberg and her co-creators, Emily Casne and April Proskovec, graduated from the University of Nebraska at Omaha in May with degrees in exercise science. The idea for the gym came from a class project that required the students to coordinate a public health program.
The equipment will be delivered and installed on Friday. A dedication ceremony originally set for this Wednesday was postponed until June 29 after the equipment was delayed, Schenkelberg said.
Schenkelberg saw the idea as something the community could get behind, and helped secure funding.
“It seemed like a great concept, and parks like these were developing in other areas around the world,” she said. “I decided my group should try to truly make this happen.”
Blue Cross Blue Shield of Nebraska paid about $25,000 for work on the gym. Another $15,000 worth of equipment and labor was donated by other organizations, including Kiewit Building Group.
Olsson Associates, a landscape architecture firm, designed the outdoor gym.
The City of Omaha is partnering with the city's parks foundation on the project.
The equipment is designed to use a person's body weight to determine resistance rather than use free weights.
The outdoor gym will be open year-round during standard park hours and is free for public use. The project is being supported by the UNO Service-Learning Academy.
World-Herald staff writer Sue Story Truax contributed to this report.
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