By Matt Wiley
A line of traffic forms on Bruce B. Downs (BBD) Blvd., just north of the Shops at Wiregrass mall. The hundreds of vehicles are turning right into the entrance of the new Florida Hospital Wesley Chapel (FHWC). Contrary to what many might assume driving past the long line of slow-moving traffic, there is not some sort of pandemic sweeping the area. In fact, the reality of the situation is quite the opposite.
On January 6, an estimated crowd of more than 5,000 people flocked to the Community Grand Opening of FHWC’s Health & Wellness Plaza on the hospital’s Wiregrass campus. So many, in fact, that the enormous parking lot for the hospital quickly filled, spilling traffic onto BBD as it was funneled into the Shops at Wiregrass parking lot via the recently opened interior connecting road.
Despite rain in the forecast, the sun shone and more than 5,000 people came out to see the state-of-the-art 50,000-sq.-ft. Health & Wellness Plaza, which, much like the 83-bed hospital, itself, features technology (more on that below) that can’t be found anywhere else in the Tampa Bay area.
“(The turnout) is amazing,” said Tracy Clouser, FHWC’s marketing director. “It shows that people in the community really are excited (about the Plaza) and curious about achieving long-term wellness.”
Although the Grand Opening didn’t officially begin until 1 p.m., Clouser says there already was a line forming for tours at 12:30.
The Grand Opening also featured the area’s first “Healthy Food Truck Rally,” featuring Two Asians & A Grill, Curbside Chef of Orlando (which won “Fan Favorite” for the day), The Cuppin’ Cake Truck, Maggie on the Move and the Honey Dripper.
As for the day’s entertainment, presentations were given by U.S. Olympic diver Chris Colwill, and there also were performances by the girls of To the Pointe Dance Studio, the Wesley Chapel High (WCH) cheerleaders and band, the Wiregrass Ranch High (WRH) cheerleaders, Zumbatomic (Zumba Exercise for Kids), a Health & Wellness Center group fitness demo and prize drawings throughout the day.
The ‘Key’ To Wellness
FHWC’s Health & Wellness Plaza, which is now open to the public, boasts that it provides a “comprehensive approach to fitness that goes far beyond your exercise routine.”
And it all begins with a key. When members sign up, they are given a “Wellness Key,” which fits on a keychain and serves as a sign-in card when members arrive at the Health & Wellness Plaza. However, unlike other gyms that hand out flimsy, laminated keychain cards to sign in with, following a personal fitness assessment for those who choose it, the key also stores medical information for each member.
The Wellness Key plugs into the center’s TechnoGym fitness equipment — the same equipment used by Olympic athletes — and keeps track of the member’s progress towards his or her goals on certain machines, such as the stationary bikes and elliptical machines. If a member is recovering from an illness or injury, his or her doctor(s) can even keep track of the patient’s progress on the equipment.
With the key plugged in, the machines also know when to slow down to keep users from overworking themselves if it is dangerous to their health. Clouser says that the Health & Wellness Plaza is now the largest TechnoGym facility in North America.
The key also works for just keeping track of each member’s ongoing workout progress.
Much of the workout equipment is very different from what you’d find in a typical gym. Whereas most gyms use machines that are weight-loaded and utilize a pulley system, much of the equipment in the FHWC Wellness Plaza is hydraulic-based, meaning that depending upon how much pressure or resistance is put on the machine by the user, the harder the machine pushes back. Kids between the ages of 13-15 are allowed to use only these machines, to avoid the risk of injury. In addition, the Wellness Plaza also has typical weight-loaded circuit machines, as well as a large free weight area.
The facility also is all about being as “green” as possible. For example, in the 24-bike cycling studio, the bikes are attached to small generators that actually help power the building. Users can even keep track of how much power they are generating during their cycling class. The studio also features “cinema rides,” in which a movie or documentary will play on the large projection screen in the front of the room for riders to watch as they work out.
More than 50 different group-exercise classes are now being offered per week in the building’s four exercise studios, including variations of Zumba, yoga, Pilates and more.
Also in the Wellness Plaza are two large conference rooms for seminars, guest speakers and healthy cooking demonstrations, as well as two pools: a four-lane, Olympic-sized (50-meter) pool and a smaller, warm-water therapy pool. Clouser says that the temperature in the therapy pool always will be kept between 92-95 degrees to loosen and reduce friction in arthritic joints. The Olympic pool always will have at least two lanes open for lap swimmers, even if there is a class going on at one end of the pool.
For that post-workout meal, members (and anyone for that matter) can get a healthy bite at the “Fit Fresh Café” in the Wellness Plaza’s lobby, which offers some of the same food that is offered in the cafeteria in the hospital, including light meals, snacks and smoothies.
The FHWC Health & Wellness Center offers three different levels of membership. For more information, please call 929-5252 or visit FHWC Wellness.org. The membership office is open Monday-Thursday, 8 a.m. – 7:30 p.m., 8 a.m.–5 p.m. on Friday and from 9 a.m.-2 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday. There also is a membership information kiosk available in The Shops at Wiregrass mall.