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Normal Town Council OKs drafting proposal for a new outdoor circuit-training court

Rosa Parks Commons
Town of Normal
This summer, Normal might build an outdoor circuit-training court at Rosa Parks Commons, a north Normal park. On Tuesday night, the Normal Town Council OK'd further study of the idea.

With the Normal Town Council's vote Tuesday, an outdoor circuit-training center could be constructed as early as this summer, in collaboration with a national nonprofit fighting a rise in obesity.

The council's 4-2 vote does not approve any funding for the National Fitness Campaign (NFC) project that's expected to cost about $180,000, including equipment and installation. Rather, it authorizes town staff to draft a proposal for creating the year-round fitness court.

The actual cost to Normal is expected to be lower, with grants and donations supporting the project, too, said Normal Parks and Recreation Director Doug Damery. As for possible locations, he said a strong contender is north Normal park Rosa Parks Commons, off Raab Road near Linden Street.

Council members Kathleen Lorenz and Stan Nord voted "no." Council member Karyn Smith was absent from Tuesday's meeting at city hall.

"This is a unique playground asset that does not exist anywhere in our community," said council member Kevin McCarthy, who supported drafting a proposal.

An NFC fitness court would broaden mobility accessibility to park infrastructure, especially for adults. But it also provides a fitness equipment option to people who might not be able to afford a gym membership, he said. The current pandemic has shown the importance in investing in public outdoor spaces, he added.

Damery said NFC has awarded Normal a $25,000 grant toward the project. During the next several months, its representatives will assist Normal in identifying other sponsors to defray the costs. Normal City Manager Pam Reece told the council that reputable organizations such as OSF Healthcare and Kiwanis International have financially supported NFC fitness courts in other communities.

In June, Normal administrators are expected to bring a more concrete proposal to the council. If approved, the court could be open by fall.

The circuit-training court would bring nearly 120 components, such as a lunge-step course, agility ladders, push ladders and handles and more. Damery called it a gateway to better fitness. The court would be very accessible since it would be at a public park, possibly near Constitution Trail. And, he said it would be constructed in a way to make it accessible to people of varying physical abilities, too.

"We think the concept fits well with a variety of our plans," said Reece, including the town's comprehensive plan, the parks and recreation master plan, and the McLean County community health improvement plan.

The National Fitness Campaign, which bills itself as a quality-of-life consulting firm, helps communities connect with potential donors to offset costs.

The court is a low-maintenance fitness infrastructure, but it's much more than that, said Damery. The nonprofit also provides a related mobile app with workouts, including its ”7 Movements in 7 Minutes.” The National Fitness Campaign also supports the court's launch, recruiting local goodwill ambassadors to educate the public on its benefits, he said, and includes a variety of classes and challenges for different fitness levels.

The National Fitness Campaign has created similar projects in about 1,000 U.S. cities over the past four decades, according to council materials. Damery said one recent Illinois community to partner with NFC is New Lenox.

Opioid settlement

In another matter, the council voted 6-0 to opt-in to settlement money from a national opoid crisis class-action lawsuit. Normal’s expected to receive nearly $300,000 over the next two decades, Reece said. Nationally, the settlement could reach $26 billion.

The class-action lawsuit was against a variety of opioid distributors, such as McKesson, Cardinal Health, and AmerisourceBergen as well as Janssen Pharmaceuticals, Inc. and its parent company, Johnson & Johnson, as a manufacturer.

Among Illinois municipalities, almost $800 million is expected to be distributed. In December, the Bloomington City Council voted to join the settlement, andcould see nearly $500,000 heading its way over the same 18-year disbursement period.

Reece noted participating in the settlement doesn't authorize any particular use for spending the money. That will come later, but it must be related to opioid addiction prevention and education, she said.

In other business the council, approved:

  • Three items related to expansion of Vineyards in northeast Normal, allowing for more town homes.
  • Spending about $50,000 with Williamsville-based Senergy Electric to replace about 15 video cameras for the Normal Police Department and City Hall Annex.
Michele Steinbacher was a WGLT correspondent, joining the staff in 2020. She left the station in 2024.