New Phoenix facility offers exercise options for the disabled

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PHOENIX -- At first glance, the Virginia G. Piper Fitness Center in central Phoenix looks like an ordinary gym. Look closer and you'll find things aren't always what they seem.  This one is designed with a special person in mind.

"This is a specific facility for disabled athletes that don't have a place to go and work out," said Michael Franks of Humana of Arizona. "There are unique feature to this equipment that you don't see at other gyms."

Humana recently helped to pay for the new gym for the Arizona Bridge to Independent Living (ABIL).  The new facility boasts 45,000 square feet of exercise equipment to help those living with disabilities live healthier lives.

"I'm here every day training," said Nick Springer. "I'm a hopeful for the 2012 Olympics in London in the sport of Wheelchair Rugby, so being able to come and train at a facility like this, this is really one of the only places in the country where it's possible."

In fact, there's only one other gym like it in the entire country.  That facility is the Paraolympic training center in Alabama.

"I'm from New York City and a lot of my teammates are from out of state as well and one of the big draws of moving here and playing for the Phoenix rugby team was to have a facility like this  where we can come every day and train and be able to excel in the sport and also live a better quality of life," adds Springer.

The center has indoor courts, an elevated track, a fitness center with cardio and workout equipment, a pool and a rock climbing wall.

"We have a number of pieces that unique to accessible lines of exercise," said Gabe Gerbic, the facility coordinator, "We also have an indoor track that is invaluable, people that can't sweat for example and then we also have accessible equipment for aerobic activity as well as an accessible pool. And sports courts for people with disabilities as well."

It's equipment needed to fill a growing need in our community.

"Having a facility like this, for a lot of new users and for a lot of people who might have been timid before with other gyms, opens up a new world for them," Springer said. "Where they can come and easily work out and use the machines and it really promotes an overall better quality of life."

The center is located at 5031 E. Washington St., Phoenix.  It will officially hold a grand opening celebration on Friday, Feb. 24. 

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