Town Toddlers

Toddler Open Gym, first Community Center program, a hit

Kim Pomichter, center, interacts with her daughter, Giselle, right, and a new friend, Rhiann Orinick, during the first Toddler Open Gym time.
Megan Wood was delighted last Thursday, Feb. 27, when Farragut’s new Community Center offered its very first program, Toddler Open Gym.

“This is wonderful,” she said while keeping an eye on her daughter, Rosie, who was playing among the gym’s myriad interactive toys. “It is so close and so inexpensive,” she added about the $2 per session program cost.

“When I saw they were going to have this Community Center I thought, ‘Oh, please, have something for little kids,’ and I’m so glad they have this.

“It is a great opportunity for little friends to meet up and play, and for parents to meet up, too, and hopefully it can become a playdate every week.”

“There really aren’t many infant things for kids to do anywhere,” said Kim Pomichter, who brought daughter, Giselle. “This is really good — it’s awesome.”

The program was developed by Parks & Athletics coordinator Lauren Cox and Special Event and Program coordinator Brittany Spencer.

“We have a lot of adult stuff, and for school age, but didn’t have anything special for toddlers,” said Spencer, “very pleased” with the first day’s turnout of about 20.

“We didn’t have any pre-registration, so this is wonderful,” she also said while watching parents and children interact with a foam Imagination Playground, a silk parachute, Bouncy horse hoppers, Hilltop Stepping Stones, crawl-through tunnels and a free standing multi-ring basketball goal, among the many available toys.

“Based on the response we have gotten so far, I’m sure we will be adding anther day,” Spencer added. “Either on a Monday or Wednesday, or maybe even on Saturdays, as we will be open on Saturdays (starting this month).”

Wanting to offer a program that would allow children to play independently without their parents took some planning.

“We got a lot of ideas from the National Park and Recreation Association Conference we attended last year,” Spencer said. “And, we looked at interactive toys online, and paid a lot of attention to reviews.

“We also remembered what we liked when we were little.”

The entire Park and Recreation staff has been getting acclimated to the new facility, and have been welcoming area residents, who are asked to created membership cards. They are free, but are required for those participating in Community Center programs, explained Wendy Smith, Town marketing and public relations coordinator.

Spencer said more than 200 cards had been printed as of Feb. 27.

Program fees are $2 per session, with a cost-saving option to purchase a $30 punch card, allowing for 20 visits.

Smith said the Parks and Recreation Department “did months of research to see what similar centers charge and landed on this small fee.”

There are many ways to do this,” said Park and Recreation Director Sue Stuhl. “Other entities charge more or have free open gyms, but have a membership fee,” noting that Farragut does not have membership fees.

“We set the open gym fees very low, and they can purchase a 20 visit pass that saves money,” added Park and Recreation Director Sue Stuhl. “That pass can be used by an entire family or even their friends, and the passes don’t expire.”

The Community Center is rolling out a slate of programs this month, including pickle ball, volleyball and family and co-ed lunch break basketball open gym times.

“We really have a lot of classes and programs for all ages,” said Carissa Ownby, media