The brand new River City Wellness Center (RCWC) held its Grand Opening in Soldotna on Saturday, February 28th, with festivities that included free mini classes, hourly drawings for free memberships, guest speakers, snacks, beverages and tours of the new wellness center. To officially cut the ribbon at the community was none other than four time Alaskan Olympian Nina Kemppel. “I very much believe in the concept of community wellness and that it takes everyone being involved in it make a community healthier. So to be part of this wonderful facility and what I believe it has the ability to achieve is mind blowing. So actually it is quite an honor for me to be here,” Kemppel said in an interview. Prior to cutting the grand opening ribbon Kemppel told of her struggles to make her dream of becoming an Olympian come true, “I say it every day of the week that I would never have made it to the Olympics if hadn’t been for the whole Alaskan family, from my parents who supported me from the very beginning and learned how to ski because I wanted to ski, to my coaches to all of the people who exist in facilities like this from nutritionists to psychologists and personal trainers, there is no way you can make it through the ups and downs of a career without having a great team behind you and I always felt I had that when I was home in Alaska. This is a wonderful support group to be part of,” she said.
And what happens when an Olympian reaches middle age, “Well I haven’t run Mt. Marathon since 2002, I’ve been doing the real job thing and have missed being in a facility like this recently. This is actually very much like an Olympic training center, but I’ve agreed to start training with a person who is more elderly in years than I am so I’m back in the gym and training pretty seriously. It takes a friend even for an Olympian to get back into a training center whatever your goals may be,” said Kemppel
Located on the Kenai Spur Highway next to Beemun’s, RCWC offers a wide range of programs, activities, classes, workshops and other opportunities geared toward a whole body approach to health and wellness for the entire community. Sky Carver, the lead in the project has been working to bring a wellness center to the community for some time, “This has been a dream we’ve been working on for more than three years. The idea was spawned during my tenure at Central Peninsula Health Foundation as a way of improving the health of the community and to decrease medical visits by allowing residents to take charge of their own health when possible. Our long term plans include funneling all revenue generated into the non-profit Kenai Alive, which will provide funding for community programs that promote a healthy lifestyle. This has been done with low initial capital costs due to the generous support of Scott Jackson and his family, and other dedicated community members.”
Amy George, the general manager, has been involved in the local fitness community for 15 years, “This is an amazing opportunity for us to reach out to those who want to make a healthy lifestyle change, but aren’t sure how to take the first step. We are promoting acceptance and creating a welcoming environment to everyone that wants to be involved. You don’t have to be an athlete to enjoy activities at River City Wellness Center. Our goal is to offer a community gathering place that combines a positive approach to health and wellness with a warm, supportive social environment to enrich and educate.”
The 22,000 sq. ft. space has an indoor track, a bouldering wall, two exercise studios for classes like Zumba, indoor cycling, circuit training and yoga, a weight room, full service locker rooms, a Kid Zone, lounge and nutrition bar. As part of River City Wellness Center, expanded plans for River City Mind & Body include services such as physical medicine, physical therapy, massage, Rolfing, counselling, yoga, and Pilates. In addition, stress reduction and nutrition programs will be offered, and support groups will be able to utilize the center as well.
River City Wellness Center is operated by Kenai Alive! a non-profit that has been established to promote health, wellness and a positive lifestyle for body, mind and soul for the communities of the Kenai Peninsula. Revenue generated by RCWC will go back into the community to work with local youth, homeschool activity programs, and community members with special needs, Wounded Warriors, and various activity groups such as Tsalteshi Trails Association. Tours are available anytime from the friendly RCWC staff.