Hit the Gym in Bluffton

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HIT THE GYM IN BLUFFTON

Expanded Buckwalter Recreation Center offers new fitness options

As a busy couple with a 6-year-old son, Maren and David Rogers have a hard time squeezing in exercise without cutting into family time. And even if they’re able to carve out space in their schedules, it’s tough to find room in the budget for expensive exercise classes or gym memberships.

They’ve found the perfect solution at the Buckwalter Recreation Center, which opened a $5.5 million, 35,000-square-foot expansion in August featuring two new gyms for sports such as basketball and volleyball, a weight room with free weights and machines, an elevated track with treadmills and cardio equipment, two racquetball courts, batting cages, and a multi-purpose room for exercise classes and meetings.

Maren purchased a family membership to the gym in October, and the Rogers have been getting their money’s worth ever since — though with the center’s reasonable fees for Beaufort County taxpayers, that isn’t hard to do. Adults can use the center for $2 a day or purchase a membership for $10 a month — or save even more with a year membership for just $90. There’s also a special rate for families. Students at Beaufort County School District’s public schools and private school students whose families pay taxes in Beaufort County get in free.

gym bluffton2“It’s a great, great place for a family on a budget,” Maren said. “It’s safe and convenient, and we’re spending quality time as a family but also getting exercise out of it.”

Maren and David can take turns shooting hoops with their son while the other gets in a workout in the weight room or on the cardio equipment, and Maren sometimes uses the one-tenth-mile indoor track to sneak in a run when the weather is bad outside.

Another benefit for families has been the ability for Beaufort County Parks & Leisure Services to play youth basketball games at the new center, which now can accommodate eight games simultaneously. In the past, families with more than one child playing would sometimes have to shuttle between the Buckwalter center and the old Bluffton Recreation Center on Ulmer Road with children playing at both facilities on the same night. PALS also has been able to eliminate the need to play games on Friday nights and Sundays, as well as add an adult volleyball league (with plans to add an adult dodgeball league), and expose more parents to all the offerings the new center boasts.

The facility isn’t just for kids and families, though. In the morning, it’s a popular spot for seniors, with the Sun City volleyball club playing in one gym, Sun City softball players honing their hitting skills in the batting cages, and a devoted bunch of racquetball players, walkers and joggers taking advantage of the new amenities.

“People have been most appreciative of it, especially because it’s so affordable,” PALS director Shannon Loper said. “A lot of people are not in gated communities and don’t have these amenities.”

The affordability has been a boon for local baseball coaches like Rex Smith, who said the batting cages are a great alternative for young players whose families can’t afford more expensive indoor training facilities. Especially during the winter months, Smith regularly takes his players to the Buckwalter center, where they can lift weights, do speed work on the track, and spend time in the batting cage — for a nominal additional fee — all in one location.

“That rec center, whatever they spent on that, they’re being good stewards of that money and making sure it’s going to last a lifetime,” Smith said. “There’s so much stuff for folks to do. I think they’ve done a great job, and the community is embracing it.”

The bulk of the funding for the recreation facilities comes from impact fees on new home construction in the county, Loper said, and with development continuing to boom throughout the county, PALS has big plans for the continued development of the Buckwalter complex. Next up is the completion of three additional soccer fields, which will give the park six full-sized fields — three of which will feature synthetic turf. Future plans also include a baseball/softball complex and a tennis center, and Loper said the county hopes to hire a full-time tournament coordinator to bring in teams from outside the area to drive economic impact.

“The expansion has greatly increased the number of people who are able to use the facility — from kids of all ages to adults and seniors,” Loper said. “We will see a huge impact as soon as we’re able to bring in more tournaments.”

SEE THE CENTER

Haven’t had a chance to check out the expanded Buckwalter Recreation Center? You’ll get your chance this month, when Beaufort County will offer free admission to county taxpayers from 1-6 p.m. Jan. 7 and 21.