Fairfield Ledger

Neighbors Growing Together | Apr 24, 2014

Gymnastics program in jeopardy

Insurance review sites lack of space as safety concern
By ANDY HALLMAN | Jan 14, 2014
Photo by: ANDY HALLMAN Gymnastics coach Jeff Ide helps Maya Lane dismount from the uneven bars during practice Monday at the Roosevelt Recreation Center. Older girls in the program cannot use the uneven bars Lane is shown using because those bars are in a room with a ceiling that is too low. The older girls practice on a set of uneven bars in a racquetball court in the building.

The Roosevelt Recreation Center may have to shut down its trampoline and gymnastics program at the end of February.

An insurance review of the building in December revealed there was not adequate space in the racquetball court for the trampoline and gymnastics equipment. The insurance company notified Fairfield city administrator Kevin Flanagan of its findings Thursday via email.

The city has 60 days to respond to the insurance company about how it plans to rectify the problem. Fairfield Park and Rec director Derik Wulfekuhle said the other room the gymnastics club uses on the top floor is not big enough, either, and it is a safety concern. The room, formerly used for aerobics, is not tall enough to accommodate the uneven bars used by the older girls in the club. Those girls practice on a separate set of uneven bars in the racquetball court.

Now that the gymnastics and trampoline program is under scrutiny, it might have to be shut down at the end of February until alternative practice facilities are found.

“No matter what we do to try to fix it, we simply don’t have the space,” Wulfekuhle said. “We need extra padding and we need the trampoline to be farther from the wall.”

Wulfekuhle said he has attempted to find other places for the kids to practice but has come up empty. He said he would prefer the city build an addition to the rec center for the gymnastics and trampoline club. He would like the city to partner with private donors to fund the building.

The property committee will discuss the matter at its meeting at 5:30 p.m. Thursday at city hall. The council plans to discuss the issue at its next meeting at 7 p.m. Jan. 27.

Jeff and Jeanne Ide teach the trampoline and gymnastics classes at the rec center. Ide said the news could not have come at a worse time because his students are preparing for the state and national competitions in April and May. In fact, some students plan to attend a competition every weekend for the next three months, provided a solution is found that satisfies the insurance company and the program can continue.

Very little space is wasted in either the aerobics room on the top floor or the racquetball room on the ground floor. In those two rooms the kids practice routines such as the floor exercise, balance beam, vault, uneven bars, pommel horse, mushroom, horizontal bars, vertical bars and rings. The rooms are rarely empty, too. The Ides teach classes every day of the week except Wednesday and Sunday.

Ide said he coaches 65-70 kids at a time and that 1,000 kids have attended his classes at some point in the past three years. That was when he began coaching trampoline and gymnastics at the rec center. Before that, he ran a gymnastics class from his garage in Brighton for a year.

In a relatively short amount of time, the Ides have created a terrific program that competes for state titles. Last May, the gymnastics team won four first-place trophies and the third-place team trophy at the state championship in Des Moines. Thirteen kids in the trampoline program qualified for state, and all of those went on to compete at the national level. One girl, Michelle Zhang, came in second place at nationals in the gymnastics all-around and in trampoline.

Ide said he “grew up on a trampoline” and started competing in gymnastics in ninth grade. He won first place in the all-around at the Illinois State Meet his senior year of high school in 1976. His involvement in gymnastics continued even after enlisting in the Air Force. He was stationed in West Germany, where he coached a team of gymnasts all the way to the World Games.

Jeff Lannan, another former gymnast, has been helping the Ides as a volunteer coach for the past few months.

Wulfekuhle said the gymnastics and trampoline program has been a fantastic addition to the rec center and he would hate to see its season interrupted.

“Scott Vaughan told me his son comes home from school and the first thing he does is his homework, so he has enough time to do the trampoline class,” Wulfekuhle said. “Lots of kids are passionate about this program, and it’s one of the few that lasts year-round.”


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