We are excited to share an update of our work on the revitalization of Smith Playground, a South Philadelphia park that’s been undergoing a complete revitalization thanks to a group of incredible organizations and community partners. What began with high level brainstorming last year between Urban Roots, City Fitness, THRIVE Functional Training, the Make The World Better Foundation (headed by Philadelphia Eagle Connor Barwin), the Philadelphia Parks and Recreation and Water Departments and Avid Trails, has now evolved into an incredibly unique fitness amenity for Point Breeze neighborhood residents. 

After establishing project goals with the team last March, we worked closely with City Fitness and THRIVE to create an innovative outdoor exercise pod that connects to a short fitness trail, providing community residents with a fun (and functional) way to get fit. “We are extremely excited to bring Avid Stations to a city park and can’t wait to see how people use them. This pod setup allows for so much creativity and variety in one’s workout, so this is really just the beginning of understanding how people will use them and how the space will positively impact their lives,” says Justin Lax, President of Avid Trails. As Philadelphia’s first-ever outdoor fitness facility of this sort, and the only Avid Trails / THRIVE hybrid pod in the nation, we are extremely excited to see it come together and begin changing the lives of South Philadelphia residents.

A functional fitness space designed to enable City Fitness to run THRIVE training sessions for area residents along with year round opportunities for locals to get a full body workout anytime, the Pod features a variety of Avid Stations(TM) elements, components of a traditional Thrive Pod and some other unique features designed after receiving input from the community. As a public fitness facility, this outdoor “gym” is designed to last, with a durable poured-in-place rubber surface and permanent structures built from resilient materials. While other surfacing materials such as asphalt or rock may come loose and separate, creating potential hazards for a fitness pod, poured rubber never compacts or shifts over time. Additionally, the non-abrasive, poured rubber acts as a cushion to assist stabilizing users joints.

Users will have plenty of opportunities for exercises including pull-ups, dips, elevated push-ups, bar calisthenics, plyometrics, sprints, crawls, box jumps and much more.  As you can see in the rendering, the Bar Graph Box Jumps, an Avid staple, are there to help users of all fitness and ability levels with leg and core strength, vertical leap, speed, balance, endurance and plyometrics training. The Box Jumps are also great for incline and decline pushups. Pod users can then work on their agility, balance and coordination with the Quick & Nimble Hurdles and Agility Ladder. 

Rounding out the built features is an all-new Bar Park designed in conjunction with local resident Evan “OG” Harden of the Philadelphia Bar League. The Bar Park is purpose-built for bar calisthenics athletes and may eventually be home to competitions (bar battles) but it’s also useful for anyone, with pull bars of varying heights and parallel bars that are perfect for all sorts of exercises. Evan believes that “this will not only allow for people to get quality calisthenic workouts for all ages, such as pull-ups, dips, core exercises and push-ups, but also draw positive attention to the city and community.” Harden is grateful to be a part of this project to “inspire all types of people, especially the youth to live a healthier life style.”

To activate the space and teach residents how to use it properly, City Fitness plans to offer a few versions of its popular THRIVE functional training programs to Smith Playground, free of charge. Developed to “help you move like you were designed to move,” THRIVE focuses on improving performance and functional fitness for everyone from competitive athletes to those just getting back in the gym (outdoor gym in this case). Certified trainers will be leading group sessions for all ages and all fitness levels, including a scholarship-based program for local high school athletes looking to step up their game.  Tom Wingert, Marketing Director at City Fitness, says “at City Fitness we believe that fitness clubs have a role in building healthier cities – it’s just hard to systematically do that outside of our clubs. The fitness area at Smith Playground that we’ve co-created with Avid Trails, Urban Roots and the other partners in the project is that space, it takes the best of our clubs and puts it in a beautiful, public space, where everyone who uses the park can benefit in the same way our members do. We’re looking forward to the space being built for the Point Breeze community’s enjoyment, and being able to send our team to the park to design free fitness programs to maximize the space’s impact.”

The revitalization of Smith Playground is more than just a refresh of a neighborhood park.  The project has the ability to create new opportunities for engagement, community involvement, and healthy living in a major American city. “The Urban Roots and Make The World Better teams are truly excited to see how residents of South Philadelphia will reanimate Smith Playground once construction is complete. We are fortunate to be working with such great partners who also recognize the value of investing in the revitalization of Philadelphia’s parks.  We believe that high quality public spaces accessible to all have the power to positively transform neighborhoods. ” says Claire Laver, Director of Strategic Partnerships & Projects at Make The World Better Foundation. Official details and schedules have yet to be released, but check back over the next few weeks for more details and updates. For now, check out the rendering and let us know what you think. See you out there.

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