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UNO students turn class project into reality

Sports/Health Editor

Published: Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Updated: Tuesday, July 12, 2011 20:07

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Photo by Joe Shearer/The Gateway

August Shepherd, 9, of Georgetown, Texas, makes use of the newly installed exercise equipment next to the playground at Elmwood Park on a humid July 7 evening.

UNO graduates and corporate sponsors unveiled Omaha's first outdoor fitness park June 29 at Elmwood Park.

The park features a seated chest press, a seated lateral pulldown, a rowing machine, a leg press, a bench for sit-ups and pushups, and two air striders, which are similar to elliptical machines. All the lifting and rowing equipment uses the person's own body weight as resistance. A wheelchair-accessible multi-gym is also available.

The project began in professor John Noble's Organization and Administration of Physical Activity Programs class in Spring 2010. Alumni Michaela Schenkelberg, Emily Casne and April Proskovec had to create plans for a fitness park and develop a portfolio with everything from press releases to fliers and banners. They decided to see what it would take to make their plan a reality, and the project took off from there.

"It's been a really fun learning process along the way actually seeing this idea become a reality," Schenkelberg said. "Our hope is that this will result in other fitness parks such as this throughout the city."

Since beginning the project, all three students have graduated.

After the class ended, Schenkelberg did the majority of the planning and was the primary contact for sponsors. She said numerous people and organizations made the project possible and thanked professors David Corbin and Noble for supervising and helping with grants, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Nebraska for funding the equipment, Craig Larson of Olsson Associates for the architecture and the Kiewit Building Group for donating concrete and curbing.

Blue Cross Blue Shield of Nebraska was hooked right when they were told about the project, said Andy Williams, director of corporate communications.

"They had a great plan put together," he said. "We loved the idea. It's a natural fit for what we're trying to do."

Because the fitness area is so close to the playground, parents can exercise while keeping an eye on their children. Schenkelberg, who plans to attend Kansas State University and earn a Master's of Public Health degree, hopes the vision provides a two-way street.

"If [the children] see their parents exercising, they get that positive encouragement that, ‘Hey exercise is good. I want to be like that when I'm older,'" she said.

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