Ethan Lee never expected to be a parks supervisor, his current role with the city of Janesville.
Nor did he expect that a fitness court similar to the one he designed in Las Vegas would become the latest sign of Janesville’s downtown renaissance.
The city on Friday unveiled its new outdoor fitness court, a free, public gym at the corner of Court and River streets.
The new workout venue has stations for pushups, pullups, squats and lunges. Users can access exercise demonstration videos by downloading the app advertised on the main equipment wall.
The city, SSM Health and the National Fitness Campaign all helped fund the project. Janesville is the first of two Wisconsin cities to open its National Fitness Campaign-sponsored fitness court, City Manager Mark Freitag said during the ceremony.
Lee and other members of the parks department staff helped with the installation, and the coincidence of him working on the Janesville facility was seven years in the making.
As a mechanical engineering student at UW-Madison in 2011, Lee worked as an intern at Young Electric Sign Company in Las Vegas. While there, he helped develop the company’s bid to build a National Fitness Campaign-sponsored fitness court in San Francisco.
Young never secured the project, which Lee learned after returning to Wisconsin, but the final product still ended up being similar to his designs, he said.
The Janesville native eventually switched majors to forestry and has worked for the parks department for three years.
At one of the first parks and recreation committee meetings Lee attended, former committee member Steve Knox mentioned an outdoor fitness court he discovered in San Francisco—the same one Lee worked on several years ago.
“It’s kind of surreal. I was in a completely different career path,” he said. “To work on something in a completely different state, then come back to Janesville working in parks and be able to install this thing, it’s just kind of crazy.”
Lee was one of more than 100 people in attendance at Friday’s ceremony. The crowd also included Forward Janesville members and representatives from local health and wellness organizations.
After the ribbon cutting, some SSM Health employees gave demonstrations for how to use the equipment. Carol Claybaker of Janesville was one of the first volunteers eager to give it a try.
Claybaker is a recently retired nurse. She declined to give her exact age but said a reporter could call her a “senior citizen.”
She goes to the nearby YMCA five days a week—at 5 a.m., no less—to use the elliptical and weight resistance machines. She was glad to see the outdoor gym included equipment to improve balance, which is key to preventing falls, she said.
“I’m encouraged. I think it gives us another option for exercise,” Claybaker said. “It’s free and open to the public, so no one would have any reason not to take advantage of it.”
Lee said part of public service is providing physical activities and exercise spaces for people at little to no cost. The fitness court would fit that mission and get more visitors to downtown.
“The trend in general is for people to be more healthy,” Lee said. “Promoting health, having a free option other than just hiking in the parks. People can actually do real workouts on this.
“It’s unique and pretty special with what Janesville is doing downtown that we have something like this available for people.”