Airmen, guardsmen, families and more are discovering that this new fitness center in Box Elder offers the environment and amenities that they’re after.
What is the Liberty Center?
The Liberty Center is one of the first facilities completed in preparation for the arrival of the B-21 Raider and all of the accompanying personnel. The facility is 58,000 square feet of exercise space decked out with state-of-the art equipment.
The Liberty Center is owned by the South Dakota Ellsworth Development Authority (SDEDA). This group was founded by the South Dakota legislature “to make sure that the Great State of South Dakota is always a Great Place for the US Department of Defense to conduct its essential national defense mission at Ellsworth Air Force Base.”
SDEDA has been instrumental in some big projects like the Powder River Training Complex and consolidating the waste water treatment systems of Ellsworth and Box Elder. The Liberty Center is another one of those projects that helps South Dakota be a great place to carry out that mission of national defense.
A Partnership in connection
SDEDA chose an established organization to operate the Liberty Center — the YMCA of Rapid City. The YMCA brings efficiency and a sense of community and connection to the table. Kiez Larson is the Executive Director of the YMCA of Rapid City. She says, “The YMCA has always been about developing partnerships, so we’re really excited about this facility.”
The Liberty Center was designed to give the Airmen of Ellsworth AFB and the residents of Box Elder an outstanding workout experience. Kiez says that there’s a whole laundry list of reasons to work out at the Liberty Center, but here’s just a few of the exceptional features that she pointed out:
- A one-of-a-kind indoor track. “In the Black Hills, that’s a huge plus,” Kiez says. Running is a crucial part of the Air Force and National Guard PT requirements. When the weather dips below zero for weeks at a time, it’s good to know that you’ll have a way to keep working on your running.
- Big discounts for service members: $18 per month for unlimited classes and equipment use. And $30 for their families. “We’ve tried to make the membership fees very affordable.”
- With a membership, you’ll be able to try out different classes — like cycling, kickboxing, boot camp and more — and discover which ones you enjoy the most.
- Childcare can definitely be a barrier for families staying healthy, so the Liberty Center offers free drop-in child watch.
- The equipment is really nice, but it’s been intentionally selected with service members in mind. Inside the facility, there’s turf for weight sleds. It was specifically put in for the National Guard who uses it for training, but weight sleds are a great way for anyone to build muscle. Plus, there’s basketball courts that can be turned into volleyball and pickleball courts.
A place for families to thrive
JP Cartier is a physician’s assistant in the Air Force. He was recently transferred to Ellsworth and he wanted to find a workout facility that could serve the needs of him and his family. “I was looking for a gym that had space and felt less busy in the mornings, because the gym on base can get pretty crowded.”
JP has discovered what more and more of the personnel from Ellsworth are discovering — that the Liberty Center is a phenomenal resource to both the Airmen of Ellsworth and the people of Box Elder. “Another thing that I really like about the Liberty Center is the little kid zone,” he said. “That’s something that you don’t normally see — the fieldhouse being such an open space. They have everything there — the track, the weights, the turf, the kid’s zone, — all in one room. It’s really convenient. Very nice for my family and me.”
JP, his wife and his three young sons really enjoy this new facility. JP and his wife are able to stay in shape with some of the most state-of-the-art equipment in the area, and the kids have been participating in the Fit Kids program. “All of the instructors have been really good,” he said. “Everyone treats my kids well; the staff is really nice. It’s a great place to workout. It’s nice, very convenient and they really appreciate the military there.”
Zena Greer is also excited about how the Liberty Center is meeting her needs. “I’m definitely appreciative of the amenities provided at the Liberty center,” she said “With the demands of work and being a new mom, I love that they can watch my child while giving me the opportunity to refill my cup and focus on myself mentally and physically so that I can be the best for my baby. The Liberty Center is always so welcoming and encouraging to bettering myself as a whole.”
Douglas Ryan has been enjoying the Liberty Center for many reasons, but one of the big reasons he and his family appreciate this new facility so much is because of how open the staff has been to suggestions. “Initially, there were kids allowed on the turf there,” Douglas said. “We made a few suggestions, and lo and behold, a couple weeks later they had dedicated a section of the turf for kids. One of the suggestions that we also made is to allow strollers on the track, and they came back and said ‘absolutely.’ It’s clean, it’s nice, it’s perfect for people, especially in the winter.”
A Center of Community
The Liberty Center was designed to be enjoyed by both Airmen and civilians. “Strong communities are formed by strong relationships,” Kiez explains. Making friends in the community where you’re serving is always encouraged. Working out at the Liberty Center could be the start of some beautiful friendships.
Besides just being a wellness center, the Liberty Center can be used as an event venue. Kiez says, “We already have a great partnership with the Douglas School District.” Douglas has been able to use the facility to host events that were too big for their school facilities. And Ellsworth AFB is planning on using the facility for events, as well.
And more community and military events are set to be hosted there. Stay up to date on all that’s happening at the Liberty Center by following their Facebook page. https://www.facebook.com/libertycenterymca