Magazine article Parks & Recreation

Recreation in Rockford

Magazine article Parks & Recreation

Recreation in Rockford

Article excerpt

Illinois town may be last Sportstown, but definitely not least.

In the movie A League of Their Own, the women's professional baseball team, the Rockford Peaches, win the World Series. Although the Peaches aren't a part of Rockford anymore, other minor league teams like the Ice Hogs, Rockford Lightning and Rockford Riverhawks are present-day winners in this town's eyes.

Called the "amateur sports capital" of the Midwest, Rockford has earned a national reputation for providing quality sports facilities and programming. The Rockford Park District has earned the National Gold Medal for Excellence twice (1989, 1995), and is responsible for pumping an estimated $14.8 million of visitor revenue into the economy. Karen Weis, senior manager of marketing and community relations for Rockford says, "It's the facilities that we offer and the number of tournaments. We can fill up hotels in a 30-minute radius-that has tremendous economic impact for gas stations, stores and local businesses all brought in through recreation."

The town boasts 30 different recreational facilities, including a BMX track, a target practice pistol range, an 18-hole disc golf course, dogparks, as well as the traditional sports complexes and community parks. Several new facilities, such as the BMX track, have been born from Rockford residents' own ideas. The track, now considered by professionals to be one of the top 10 BMX race tracks in the nation, came about because one couple volunteered to make it. "They had a deaf son who was interested in it, and said they'd run it if they could have a location to build it," Weis says. Now, every weekend the track hums with people from all across the country, while the local couple is still running the track. In addition to extreme athletes taking to the track, Rockford has found that many residents are enjoying more traditional recreation at the city's indoor sports center. After only one full year of operation, the center is brimming with activity, from wheelchair basketball, to soccer to tennis.

"We have a tremendous therapeutic recreation program thriving," says Weis, who also adds that more leagues are forming every day.

The parks and recreation department is also testing some niche markets to see how popular they'll be in the winter months, such as dodgeball and badmitton. Weis says that the hockey program for juniors, led by a passionate staff, is also thriving, with boys and girls lining up to join a team. …

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