From pickleball and basketball to fencing and taekwondo, residents of Northbrook stay active while participating in the variety of fitness options available at the Techny Prairie Activity Center.
Opened a year ago in the midst of a global pandemic, the 43,000 square foot facility in the Northbrook Park District has helped fill a void as village residents try to stay healthy.
The park district paved the way for construction in the summer of 2019, with the grand opening taking place on New Year’s Day last year. The activity center occupies the former site of a light industrial facility and is adjacent to Techny Prairie Park and Fields and Anetsberger Golf Course, just south of downtown Northbrook.
Northbrook Park District Recreation Division Manager Angus Shields said the Northbrook Park District previously had limited space for fitness equipment, classes and gym activities, and that Primary school gymnasiums were used to meet the needs of the latter. The gymnasium of the new activity center alone occupies 10,000 square feet.
“We’ve never had our own gymnasium; we depend on every school district,” Shields said.
In addition to basketball and volleyball, pickleball, which looks like tennis at first glance but is played on a smaller court with paddles and a hard plastic ball, is a popular gym activity.
Other features of the activity center include an eight-lap one-mile oval walking track on the upper level, a 6,000 square foot fitness floor that includes more than 75 pieces of equipment, rooms for fitness classes and a multipurpose room for meetings, parties and events.
In addition to live, in-person classes, Fitness on Demand is among the offerings available. Using a module on the wall, users select one of the 300 virtual fitness classes available and then follow the workout as it plays on TV screens.
Shields said the park district is proud that the building is a net-zero energy facility that includes 800 rooftop solar panels, which capture the same amount of energy or more than was used throughout the year.
COVID-19 mitigation measures have made it difficult to operate the activity center, Shields said.
There were strict mitigations at first, and only six people could use each of the gym’s six basketball hoops by themselves at any one time, then restrictions eased over the summer when vaccines became available . More recently, as the number of pandemics increased, attendees were required to wear masks, and earlier this year proof of vaccination is required due to a Cook County mandate.
Shields said one of the benefits of having opened during a strict COVID-19 mitigation period was that there was no rush of people trying to use the facility immediately.
“The members who are here are happy because it’s not crowded,” Shields said. “You can get a lot of time and you don’t wait for equipment.”
Before the pandemic began, the park district estimated that 1,300 members would use the activity center, or 66% of capacity, and subsequently that projection was reduced to 850, Shields said. There are currently approximately 775 members.
So far, members using the Activity Center have been treated to a new facility that offers dozens of options to stay active.
“It really fills a gap,” Shields said. “As a park district, we try to encourage healthy lifestyles, and so this helps fuel that.”