Although Highlands High School students have been benefiting from the new fitness center already, it will be unveiled to the public on Thursday, Oct. 23 at 5 p.m. The facility is the centerpiece of the district’s health, wellness, fitness and training initiative associated with Phase IV of the Highlands renovation project.
As of Thursday, the center will be open to high school students, community members and staff Monday-Thursday from 5:30-8:30 p.m. and Saturdays from 9 a.m.-1 p.m. Students can purchase a membership for $20 per year, community for $100 per year, seniors for $60 per year. Since memberships will run on a fiscal year being June 1 to July 30, the cost will be prorated this year by to $15, $75 and $45. Fort Thomas Independent Schools Faculty and Staff receive a free membership. Middle and elementary school students cannot purchase a member, however, middle school students are able to use the Highlands Fitness Center for physical education classes.
The center is already being used for physical education, life science and sports medicine courses. Student athletes are able to use it during team training time as well. It features the latest in cardio, functional training and free-weight equipment, a large turf area for aerobic activity and full audio-video technology.
Alexis Gibula, a sophomore on the JV soccer team, said "I think the new facility is nice and a good idea for the school. However, I probably won't use it for anything other than what we do for soccer. I have a gym membership somewhere else."
Colleen Epperson, high school science teacher and mother of a basketball player said the girls' basketball team has been using the facility and will continue to do so once or twice a week. "I am excited about it, the convenience and its free," she said adding that the journalism students will be making videos that can be played in the fitness center.
The membership fees will likely to help with facility upkeep and staff.
"The HFC is part of the larger Highlands Phase IV project which also includes the field house, parking and practice field in the valley," said Gene Kirchner. "Total cost for the entire project is just over $3 million. The fitness center portion is approximately $750,000 of that. The Fort Thomas Education Foundation contributed $250,000 toward this project. St Elizabeth Healthcare and Commonwealth Orthopedic contributed a combined $175,000. The rest came from district facilities funds."
Commonwealth Orthopedics is the district's sports medicine provider. Kirchner reached out to them and St Elizabeth because he thought it would be a natural fit. "Both groups really supported the vision that we have for the fitness center and wanted to be part of it," he said.
It's uncommon for a school district to open its facility to the public but Kirchner said the risk is worth the benefit adding that the fitness center will be staffed by Stephen Kowolonek, a Fort Thomas native who has a bachelor's degree in exercise science, and student assistants. "We believe that Highlands should be the center of the community," he said. "Our goal is to use this facility to promote health and wellness among all stakeholders. We see this as a way to give back to our community."
Contact Kowolonek, fitness center coordinator, at 859.781.5900 or send an email. More information and membership applications can also be found on the Fort Thomas Independent Schools website.