Giles Tucker, the director of community and economic development for Madison Heights, tries out the Fitness Court at Huffman Park during its grand opening June 11, while the utilities supervisor Chris Woodward offers some words of encouragement.

Giles Tucker, the director of community and economic development for Madison Heights, tries out the Fitness Court at Huffman Park during its grand opening June 11, while the utilities supervisor Chris Woodward offers some words of encouragement.

Photo by Deb Jacques


Officials celebrate opening of Fitness Court at Huffman Park

By: Andy Kozlowski | Madison - Park News | Published June 21, 2021

 Joey Hewis, of Detroit, a member of the Detroit Pistons Extreme Team — also known by his nickname “Showdown” — was among the visitors checking out the new outdoor exercise facility.

Joey Hewis, of Detroit, a member of the Detroit Pistons Extreme Team — also known by his nickname “Showdown” — was among the visitors checking out the new outdoor exercise facility.

Photo by Deb Jacques

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MADISON HEIGHTS — An outdoor exercise facility is now open at Huffman Park, with more than 30 pieces of equipment, free for all to use, and community classes led by trained ambassadors planned for the future.

The Fitness Park features seven stations, each themed around a different type of exercise, including core exercises, squats, pushups, lunges, pull-ups, agility training and bends. Huffman Park is located at 400 W. Cowan Ave., south of 11 Mile Road and west of John R Road.

The facility is part of an initiative by the National Fitness Campaign, which partners with cities and schools to plan, build and fund infrastructure that promotes the health of a community. It is also made possible by sponsor Priority Health. The city of Madison Heights was chosen from among hundreds of applicants and awarded a $50,000 grant. The city pitched in a $50,000 match, and donors are lined up for another $50,000, covering the overall cost of $150,000.

The grand opening was June 11, with a ribbon-cutting in the morning and a community event in the evening. In a series of emails, city officials celebrated the good news of the latest addition to the Madison Heights parks system.

“I love how well the Fitness Court came together,” said Mark Bliss, a council member. “Residents of all ages are already flocking to it, and it’s received a ton of buzz locally as a bit of a destination.

“Personally, I’m a fan of the reverse row stations, but there are so many diverse exercises represented throughout the court,” he said. “It looks great, and it’s a unique amenity for our parks system, allowing anyone who wants to visit the park a chance to use the equipment and get a great workout for free.”

Mayor Roslyn Grafstein said she wants to see more collaborative projects.

“I look forward to meeting with more of our corporate sponsors to discuss other private/public partnership opportunities,” Grafstein said. “To that end, I am looking for sponsors to assist with funding bike racks in our parks.”

She said June 11 was a busy day between the formal ribbon-cutting in the morning and the demonstrations with residents in the evening.

“It was also the one-year anniversary of my foot surgery, and I was thrilled that in the evening I could participate in the fitness challenge and did everything to the best of my ability except the mountain climbers, when I did another 30-second plank instead,” the mayor said.  

Council member Robert Corbett said he sees the Fitness Court adding value to Huffman Park.

“We have for decades looked to transform our park system into a destination location for residents of all ages,” Corbett said. “From families looking for attractive picnic locations, to young people playing baseball and soccer, to older folks looking for a safe accessible walking path, the city is on its way to meeting these goals and more.”

Emily Rohrbach, another council member, agreed.

“I am thrilled to see the final product of the new adult Fitness Court at Huffman Park,” Rohrbach said. “We took a crumbling square of concrete, and with grants and support from private businesses we now have a one-of-a-kind place for community members to gather, exercise and enjoy. I love that we are looking at every opportunity to improve services for residents, and doing what it takes to bring it to reality.”

Users can also download the free Fitness Court App for iOS and Android, which acts like a “coach in your pocket,” providing guidance for structured workout routines.

The Madison Heights location is the first outdoor court in a series of 15-20 Priority Health-sponsored Fitness Courts that will be constructed in easily accessible public spaces through 2022. The National Fitness Campaign’s award-winning initiative now has locations in more than 150 cities across the United States, including Michigan locations such as Roseville, Garden City, Big Rapids and Saginaw. The first Michigan build was on the campus of Oakland University in 2019.

Among the major donors for the build at Huffman Park are Italia Construction, Dilisio Contracting, Sunde Building, Nowak & Fraus Engineers, and International Outdoor.

The Madison Heights project began when the city manager, Melissa Marsh, was tipped off to the opportunity by a Madison Heights resident, Stephanie Sawicki.

“I have a personal passion for fitness, and I am very excited to bring this program and equipment to the residents of Madison Heights,” Marsh said in a statement. “The unique part of this project is the community engagement aspect. National Fitness looks for ambassadors within the community to be trained to run free classes at the site. This helps to facilitate the growth of a healthy Madison Heights.”  

“We are pleased to join Madison Heights and the National Fitness Campaign to officially launch the first Priority Health Fitness Court,” said Praveen Thadani, president of Priority Health, in a statement. “We believe all people deserve the opportunity to live a healthy life, and that’s why we’re committed to supporting this partnership to reduce the barriers to free fitness, and improve wellness for the neighbors of Madison Heights.”

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