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Central Christian College of Kansas Celebrates Grand Opening of McKeown Fitness Court


By Brenna Eller


McPHERSON, Kan. — Central Christian College of Kansas celebrated the grand opening of the McKeown Fitness Court with a ribbon cutting ceremony on Nov. 16.

Joe Johnston, Central Christian College of Kansas Director of Advancement and McPherson Chamber of Commerce Ambassador welcomed the crowd at the ribbon cutting Thursday and shared that the McKeown Fitness Court is the first Fitness Court Studio in the State of Kansas and that CCCK is the first four-year higher education partner in the state campaign.

Chad Hitt, Chamber President congratulated all who made the Fitness Court possible and introduced Dr. (Rev.) Lenny Favara, President of Central Christian College.

Dr. Favara Fitness Court Ceremony
Dr. (Rev.) Lenny Favara, Central Christian College of Kansas President speaks about the idea Dr. Lara Vanderhoof had of the Fitness Court and the steps it took to get to the grand opening Thursday.

Dr. Favara credited Dr. Lara Vanderhoof, Chief Academic Officer at CCCK for having the idea of the outdoor Fitness Studio. 

“As I began to see what the program had to offer and that it would provide an opportunity to partner with the local community, it seemed like a no-brainer for us,” Dr. Favara said.

Under the direction of Dr. Vanderhoof, Favara shared that a grant proposal was submitted to Blue Cross Blue Shield of Kansas.

“We are proud to be one of the first ten leading communities in Kansas selected by Blue Cross Blue Shield of Kansas and the National Fitness Campaign to join this initiative and to be the first full sight in Kansas with a full fitness court experience,” Dr. Favara said. 

Dr. Favara thanked all who contributed to the Fitness Court, starting with Dr. Vanderhoof for her dedication and determination to keep the process moving. He also thanked the Board for supporting the project, James Nelson, Steve Gray, Bruce Cromwell, Tricia Pimentel, BCBSKS and National Fitness Campaign for funding and their support, CHS for their gift for the project, Colonel Vanderhoof for his oversight of the project, the construction group and team that prepared and installed the equipment, Dr. Ferrell, The Locker Room and Heartbeat Coffee, the student body for allowing the college to remove the volleyball court temporarily, and lastly, he said a big thank you to Dr. Barry McKeown for providing the lead gift to ensure the completion of the project. 

Board Chair Dr. Garry Anderson wasn’t present, so Dr. Favara shared a quote on Dr. Anderson’s behalf.

Dr. Favara ended his speech with CCCK’s vision of aspiring to provide a transformational educational experience, “rooted in Christ to any person who desires to be a faithful steward of heart, mind, soul and strength.” 

“The presence of this fitness court here on this campus will allow us to further pursue that in strengthening heart, mind, soul, strength to every person,” Dr. Favara said. “Not just our students, but the campus community as well, opening the door for renewal for transformation.”

Tricia Pimentel CCCK
Tricia Pimentel, Director of Exercise Science at CCCK shares her excitement about the Fitness Court and the benefits the Court provides for her students and the community.

The next speaker, Tricia Pimentel, Director of Exercise Science at CCCK shared that when the National Fitness Campaign initially reached out with the opportunity for the outdoor fitness center, she was most excited about how it would benefit her students.

“By becoming certified fitness ambassadors and offering personal training and group training, they began experience that would benefit them for years to come,” Pimentel said.  

Pimentel shared how the students will be able to take what they learn from this experience and share their fitness knowledge across the globe. 

“The more I learned, the more I realized how much it can benefit our community as well, which is why we chose this location,” Pimentel said. “The fitness court is a wonderful example of partnership across the public and private sectors to help break down barriers to accessible community programming. Living a healthy lifestyle and taking preventative measures can help reduce the risk of developing chronic, yet preventable diseases.”

According to Pimentel, approximately 36 percent of the population in Kansas is obese and 35 percent of the population is pre-diabetic. Regular exercise on the fitness court with body weight training can help individuals significantly lower their risk of developing these and other diseases.

“A body weight workout enhances coordination, balance, and mobility in particular,” Pimentel said. “By adopting a healthy lifestyle and taking preventative measures, we can potentially avoid costly medical procedures and treatments, reducing the burden on the healthcare system and helping everyone save money and ultimately live longer and healthier lives.”

Pimentel encouraged community members who are 14 and older to come over to the new fitness core studio and spend a little more time outside every day.

“We are pleased that Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Kansas and the National Fitness Campaign partnered to offer this wonderful opportunity to communities across Kansas and that Central Christian College of Kansas was chosen to be a recipient allowing this project to come to fruition,” Pimentel said. “Along with the support of CHS, and most importantly Dr. Barry McKeown. We are grateful for the opportunity to enjoy free outdoor fitness for years to come.”

Virginia Barnes BCBSKS
Virginia Barnes of Blue Cross Blue Shield of Kansas speaks about the partnership between BCBSKS and National Fitness Campaign and the mission to better the lives and communities the Fitness Courts are in.

Virginia Barnes from BCBSKS shared that the organization is pleased to be a partner with the National Fitness Campaign and be able to sponsor Fitness Courts statewide. 

“We pride ourselves in being Kansans serving Kansans with the core purpose of providing peace of mind and quality of life and what better way to do that than to partner with the community and bring assets like this fitness court to communities like yours to make sure that not only students have access to physical activity, but also the community and that we could bring that together,” Barnes said. “As already stated, that improves both physical health, but also mental health and an investment in our community’s vitality.”

Mayor Tom Brown congratulated the college on the Fitness Court Thursday as well and said he met with the Board a month ago.

“This is an immediate step which was already in process to link Central Christian College of Kansas to the McPherson community, and you will see in the coming months and next couple of years more intentionality to link with the community,” Mayor Brown said. “The community in the past decade has missed a real opportunity to link with a quality institution, so I hope this is something that will help the community start.”

CCCK Fitness Court Mayor Brown
Mayor of McPherson, Tom Brown shares about his hopes for the new Fitness Court to link Central Christian College of Kansas to the community of McPherson. Seated left to right: Joe Johnston (CCCK), Chad Hitt (McPherson Chamber President), Dr. Lenny Favara (CCCK President), Tricia Pimentel (CCCK), and Virginia Barnes (BCBSKS).

Mayor Brown said the city has had a long-term connection with BCBSKS and he wants to challenge businesses in the community to utilize the Fitness Court as well as the McPherson Police Department and Fire Department, since they have physical training requirements.

Debbie Hawkinson, Chamber Executive Director shared that the Fitness Court is a great addition to the community. 

“Every skill level can participate in this all the way up to the cross fit enthusiasts,” Hawkinson said.

Doug Vanderhoof, Chief Strategic Operations Officer for CCCK answered questions after the ribbon cutting and said that the Fitness Court will be open 24 hours a day. There are also lights for those who want to use the Fitness Court in the evening hours.

Be sure to download the Fitness Court App, which has workouts for all skill levels. Some instructions are provided at the court as well.

Some of Pimentel’s students gave a quick demonstration of the equipment after the ribbon cutting Thursday and then the crowd from the Chamber Connection had the opportunity to witness the McPherson Police Department compete against the McPherson Fire Department in a fitness challenge.                                                 

Central College Student demonstrates different levels of the equipment.
IMG_2372 (3)
Members of the McPherson Police Department and McPherson Fire Department competed against each other in a fitness challenge after the CCCK students demonstrated in each section of the Fitness Court.