Long held as a source of spiritual renewal, the Mississippi River got physical Wednesday with the opening of the Grizzlies Riverfront Fitness Trail + Pop-Up Park.
Called RiverFit for short, the trail stretches along the western edge of Tom Lee Park. It features six workout stations with pull-up bars, monkey bars, battle ropes, abdominal benches, plyometric boxes, and an obstacle course. It also has two full-size sand volleyball courts and a lined soccer field with goals.
The Memphis Grizzlies Foundation, the City of Memphis, and the Riverfront Development Corporation collaborated on the project.
"We are the Memphis Grizzlies, and fitness is really core to who we are, what we do, and how we live," said Diane Terrell, executive director of the Memphis Grizzlies Community Investment and Grizzlies Foundation. "Because we're a professional sports organization and because we're the only one in town, we feel a special obligation to enhance and ensure access to health and fitness opportunities to all Memphians."
- Toby Sells
- Construction of RiverFit in Tom Lee Park
RiverFit is temporary. Its backers hope the three-month experiment will kick off a conversation about more permanent fitness equipment options for Tom Lee Park and others parks across Memphis. Community feedback will help define "what Tom Lee Park should become," Terrell said. But she said the stations in the pop-up park weren't "pulled out of a hat."
Mark Akin, owner of downtown gym Envision Fitness, worked with the Grizzlies to design the stations. He said it was important that they be usable by everyone "whether you're in super shape or just getting started."
"As we all know, we are inundated with negative national press about Memphis being the fattest [city in the country]," Akin said. "This is such a wonderful opportunity for everyone. Whether you can afford a gym or not, you can bring a family down on the river and you can use these stations. So, it is important that they be usable by everyone."
The project is also meant to activate Tom Lee Park, which doesn't see a lot of action outside of the Memphis In May season. Janet Hooks, director of the Memphis Division of Parks and Neighborhoods, said Tom Lee Park was designed to function as a festival park for the city but can be much more.
"The openness of the park allows for multi-purpose uses of the space during non-festival periods and allows people to use and enjoy the park for alternative urban sports like bike polo and disc golf during non-festival periods," Hooks said. "The important thing is that we are providing access to a great space for outdoor activities; we want people to be engaged."
But how the equipment is used will be up to those who want to use it. The Grizzlies asked locals on Facebook to post their ideas for getting fit at RiverFit.
Alexandra Mobley, a personal trainer, said she plans to host a boot camp at the park on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Saturdays. Jonathan McCarver said his group, the Memphis Parkour and Freerunning group, is eager to train down by the river.