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Athletic Center a draw to community

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Pequot Lakes Schools’ new athletic center is drawing crowds — and not just of students.

The new gyms and walking track are well used by the community, said school board member and volunteer Curt Johnson. He and resident Ryan Sjoblad supervise open gym nights twice a week: Wednesdays and Sundays from 7-9 p.m.

Open gym has been going on since around 2001. Johnson said that in the new facilities, open gym night has, at times, seen more than 100 people taking advantage of the community space.

“The colder it gets out, the more people are here,” Johnson said.

He said people mostly play basketball, but occasionally volleyball is set up. The walking track is also well used.

Open gym is free and anyone is welcome. The community is expected to behave well based on the honor system.

Resident Alison Collins brings her son and his friends every Sunday and occasionally on Wednesdays.

“It’s one of those good, clean things for kids to do in the dead of winter,” Collins said. The kids especially like it because it’s not structured, she said. They get to pick what games they’re playing and organize things on their own.

Plus, she said, “It’s free, which is huge.”

Johnson said open gym is also a great way to get young children involved in athletics.

“They come play around and the next thing you know they’re participating (in organized sports),” Johnson said.

Pequot Lakes Activities Director Marc Helmrichs said the addition of the new gym has made more space, which makes for earlier practice times. Teams used to practice in shifts until 7:30 p.m., but now most teams are done by 6 p.m. There’s more time for youth sports or Patriot Activities Club teams, and the school is now able to host tournaments.

Area walkers and runners use the walking track that looks over the main gym and auxiliary gym from the upper level. Andrea Nelson, of Pequot Lakes Community Education, said more than 100 people have signed up to use the indoor track so far.

Runners and walkers are welcome to use the track from 5:30-9 p.m. Monday to Friday when school’s in session so long as they’re registered through community education. Once registered, participants receive a facility use pass that’s good for the school year.

More information about the track is available on the school’s website at under “community education” and “indoor track,” or by calling community education at 218-568-9200.