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Large fitness center coming to East Lawrence; update on Rock Chalk Park fitness center, trail system


The Lawrence-based company that hosts Color Run events all over the country is opening a major new fitness center and health club in East Lawrence. But no, they won't be throwing paint on you while you work out. (While we're on that subject, could someone please tell my wife to put down the paintball gun while I'm on the treadmill.)

Plans are in the works to convert the old Zimmerman Steel building at 701 E. 19th St. into a fitness center that will have Crossfit training, circuit training, cycling classes and a sports performance department that will include former KU football running back Jake Sharp and KU football athletic trainer Murphy Grant as head trainers for the facility.

In total, the facility will have 9,000 square feet of indoor fitness center space, plus a 24,000-square-foot outdoor turf field that will host youth camps and other events. The site even will have room for a community garden, said Ryan Robinson, president of the Lawrence-based event and promotions company Silverback.

The new gym will carry the Silverback name, and the building also will serve as the corporate headquarters for the approximately 20 full-time employees who work as part of the event-promotions company.

"This just seemed like a natural fit for us," Robinson said. "Plus, the building is too neat not to do something really cool in here."

If you are having a hard time picturing the location, it is about a block west of the 19th and Haskell intersection. Silverback recently has filed a request with the Lawrence-Douglas County Planning Department to have the property rezoned to commercial from its current light industrial status.

Silverback has made a name for itself in the sporting and event industry by serving as one of the top contractors for the immensely popular Color Run events, which are fun runs where participants run through a course and have a colored starch solution sprayed on them at various stations. The runs have become immensely popular. Last year's 5K Color Run in downtown Lawrence attracted more than 3,000 participants, and it's one of the smaller Color Run events nationally.

Robinson said his company produced 200 events across the world last year, with many of them being Color Run events, but also Ironman, marathons, obstacle course competitions, and another themed-race called The Electric Run. (Would somebody please tell my wife to put down the jumper cables.) In total, events hosted by Silverback attracted more than 1 million participants last year.

"Business has been great," Robinson said. "We had a record year last year, and we are doing even better now."

Silverback will continue with its event promotion business, but Robinson said the company was looking for a business venture that would allow the company to have a stronger presence in Lawrence. The company is going through the necessary approval process at City Hall, and hopes to have the fitness center open in September.

In the meantime, unfortunately, I guess my wife and I will have to continue with our fitness routines: Me running on the treadmill and her lifting case after case of paintballs.

In other news and notes from around town:

• The city of Lawrence also is ready to make a big purchase when it comes to fitness. City commissioners at their meeting tonight are scheduled to approve $120,000 worth of cardio and fitness equipment for the new Rock Chalk Park recreation center, which is scheduled to open by September.

City staff members are recommending going with the same brand and style of fitness equipment that is used at the student recreation center at Kansas University. In terms of quantity, the order will include: five treadmills, three recumbent bikes, three upright bikes, five elliptical trainers, one upper body cycle, one stair climber, 12 strength/weight machines, and a variety of dumbbells and free weights with benches and weight racks.

• City commissioners also are scheduled to approve a master plan for the trail system at Rock Chalk Park. The plan calls for a little more than 5 miles of trails at the complex, which is just north and east of the Sixth Street and SLT interchange in west Lawrence.

About 3.3 miles of the trails will be constructed in the wooded area north and west of the recreation center. The scenic trails will allow for 5K runs and walks to be hosted on the site. Plans call for the trail to be built with crushed asphalt. When hosting running events at the site, the city plans to have the start/finish line in front of the recreation center. Near the recreation center, a gathering area — complete with fire pit — will be built to host runners and spectators.

In addition, about 2 miles of 10-foot-wide, concrete shared-use paths will be built on the property. Those paths will connect the recreation center to other facilities such as the track and field, softball and soccer venues on the site.

Click here to see a detailed plan, or look below for a quick glimpse. The yellow trails would be the crushed asphalt trails through the natural areas of the site. The blue and purple trails would be the 10-foot-wide concrete shared-use paths. The red asterisk is about where the 8-foot-by-8-foot fire pit would be located.

Commissioners meet at 6:35 p.m. tonight at City Hall.

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  • Courtesy: Paul Werner Architects/City of Lawrence

    Courtesy: Paul Werner Architects/City of Lawrence by Chad Lawhorn


    Clark Coan 3 years, 9 months ago

    Good location for the fitness center since it's right on the Burroughs Creek Trail which is going to be extended both north and south in the near future. However, those who can afford the private fees generally don't live in the eastern part of the city.

    Regarding the Rock Chalk Park trails, I guess crushed asphalt is better on the knees than concrete. We'll see how it looks and feels. I like crushed limestone like on the Kaw River Levee Trail.

    The new Outside for a Better Inside Trail north of LMH and Community Health Center is nearing completion. Over 2/3 of the concrete is down and dedication will be held in May.

    Richard Heckler 3 years, 9 months ago

    "However, those who can afford the private fees generally don't live in the eastern part of the city."

    We'll have to agree to disagree……..

    I'll have to say what a great use of that structure and outdoor space. Applause Applause

    That building might well be around for about 200 more years. Free State Brewery may need to open a satellite location in an effort to provide relaxation for the participants after a hard workout. The new brewery is in the backyard of Silverback Fitness Center.

    Lawrence Morgan 3 years, 9 months ago

    These trails are a great idea. Clark, I would agree with you about the crushed limestone.

    And I'm very excited about the Outside for a Better Inside trail completion and opening!

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