Higher Education and Sports Business

Fitness center plans open house at Northview High School

Northern Physical Therapy opens its second school-based community facility.

September 18, 2015
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Northview Fitness Center
Keith Slenk, football coach Max Kerry and Gina Otterbein, from left, are pleased with the new fitness center and physical therapy clinic. Photo by Rachel Weick

The new fitness center and physical therapy clinic located within Northview High School are inviting community members to tour the new facilities.

Northern Physical Therapy, which is headquartered in Coopersville, is hosting an open house and ribbon-cutting ceremony from 5-7 p.m., Sept. 24, at the new Northview Fitness Center and Northern Physical Therapy Clinic at 4451 Hunsberger NW, Grand Rapids, within the high school.

During the open house, community members are invited to tour the fitness center, physical therapy clinic, new aquatic center and indoor track. Discounts will be available for those interested in signing up for a membership.

Keith Slenk, manager and physical therapist at Northview Fitness Center, said the open house is a chance to show off the new facility and talk about the services and programs offered.

“We want to encourage people to stop by. We’ll have some light drinks and refreshments,” said Slenk. “A lot of people supported the community bond to help fund the place, so they want to see where their dollars went, and then if they have questions for us, we would love to get them in here and get them active.”

The Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce is expected to participate in the ribbon-cutting, which will be performed by Scott Korpak, superintendent of Northview Public Schools.

The new Northview Fitness Center provides fitness and exercise classes, personal training and lap swim not only to students and employees of the school system, but also to members of the community. The new indoor walking track and athletic wing are part of a previous bond campaign from 2011 and 2012.

In 2011 and 2012, Northview Public Schools proposed two bond measures totaling approximately $43.5 million to fund technology upgrades, renovation and improvements to the district’s athletic facilities. Roughly $11.9 million of the bond measures were dedicated to constructing a new pool and converting the existing pool into a fitness and exercise room.

Gina Otterbein, physical therapist and owner of Northern Physical Therapy, said the bond measures helped fund the new fitness center, and the community really made it happen.

“The community has helped bring this forward for the students and the athletes, so we want this fitness center to be open to the community, too,” said Otterbein. “This is a pretty tight-knit community for being a larger city and public school, but people are really supportive.”

Northern Physical Therapy partnered with Northview Public Schools in August 2014 to staff and to manage the new fitness center, which officially opened at the beginning of the year. The staff consists of roughly 10 part-time employees of Northern Physical Therapy, including physical therapy, fitness and administration positions.

With nearly three-and-a-half years of prior experience managing Wayland Union Schools’ community fitness center, Otterbein said the organization started collaborating with Northview when the district began working on the project.

“It was a good fit. We are pretty community-based and understand how schools work and try to meet their needs to make it easier for them so they can focus on education,” said Otterbein. “We focus on the day in and day out of managing the fitness center and having all of the little pieces work together.”

The fitness center offers free weights, weight equipment, functional space, TRX training equipment, treadmills, an indoor track, and access to the pool for community members during open lap swim in the mornings and evenings.

Northview middle school and high school students can use the facilities at no cost, while adult residents and parents of Northview students can sign up for $20 per month. The monthly rate for residents 65 and older is $15, while the rate for non-Northview residents is $40 per month.

“We offer classes to the community and we have physical therapy right here, too. That is the other service that kind of pulls it all together for the community,” said Otterbein.

While community members have access to the fitness center in the morning and evening, students use the amenities during the day through various classes and team sports. The physical therapy clinic officially opened in March 2015 and offers treatment to students, employees and the general public.

“There are some other schools in the area that have found it was really helpful to have physical therapy, so we looked at that model, leased some space and have that available for them,” said Otterbein.

Otterbein said by allowing students to have access to the facility and to the Northern Physical Therapy staff if they have questions or injuries, it can have a long-term impact on health.

“It is really teaching them life-long exercise and fitness because they are doing it now,” said Otterbein. “Hopefully, they will carry it on to their college years and into their life, which is the long-term impact of all this change in health care: We are building healthier lifestyles over decades.”

Northern Physical Therapy has been providing physical and occupational therapy for more than 22 years to patients in West Michigan. The organization also offers prevention and wellness services, massage and aquatic therapy and corporate wellness programs.

Northern Physical Therapy has six locations, in Cedar Springs, Coopersville, Grand Rapids, Grant, Sparta and Wayland.

“We have been working to help people with pain and improve function for 22 years, so we are not new to physical therapy. This is just our new niche and community,” said Otterbein.

“We hope people are going to come in, see what is here, and maybe join and get a little more fit. It is hard to start, but with a little guidance and support, we want people to know it is not that bad. It is actually fun once you get going.”

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