As running and walking continues to grow in popularity, Athlone Regional Sports Centre is hoping to piggyback on that trend by starting work later this summer on a new outdoor fitness park, thought to be the first of its kind in Ireland in terms of scale and the facilities on offer in the one location.
Documents were recently published on the government's e-tenders website seeking a contractor for the construction phase of the project, which will facilitate walkers, joggers, group fitness, as well as providing other exciting elements like an obstacle course, a boules area, climbing area and a half basketball court on land adjacent to the current sports centre on the Ballymahon Road.
It's all about encouraging families and people of all ages to get out and get active, according to the centre's manager, Liam Cunningham, who believes an outdoor fitness park will compliment their location so close to the Greenway, and with a cafe in the centre, they can cater for the social element of fitness too.
"We'd hope to have a contractor on-site in June, certainly before the middle of summer," he told the Westmeath Independent on Monday last ahead of the tender closing date of March 13.
The good news for the public is that the vast majority of the planned outdoor fitness park will be free to use apart from the functional fitness area or group fitness area where charges will apply.
"There'll be two jog loops, one will be 1.5km for beginners. It'll be flat so it will be usable for prams and wheelchairs or those with less mobility. The second will be a 2.5km loop so for anyone who wants to do 5km so they can do two of those. This one will be a little more challenging, it will have a little more gradient or hills.
"There will also be a half basketball court, a climbing area and a picnic area too. We're also proposing to put in a functional fitness area aimed at group fitness, squads, bootcamps and corporates. The other big thing is the obstacle course, it would be seen as attractive for families to challenge each other, and we're looking at four lanes for that.
This latter facility would provide a "fun element" adjacent to the cycleway and will link in with what's on offer indoors for those who finish cycling or walking on the Old Rail Trail, he added. A boules/petanque area aimed at older adults is also planned as well as events targeting this age group.
A final decision on the full list of facilities to be provided in the park will be made once the tenders for the project have been appraised.
It will be financed by a substantial government grant already approved for the project, along with funds from Westmeath County Council and Athlone Regional Sports Centre. The park is expected to take around four months to construct.