By Evamarie Socha
The Daily Item
— LEWISBURG — What does driving around four children to assorted activities and practices get you? A $6 million, state-of-the-art, community indoor wellness and recreation center — the latest addition to the Pennsylvania House Commons project in East Buffalo Township, it was announced this morning.
The project stems from a partnership of the Miller family of Lewisburg, owners of Playworld Systems Inc., a playground and fitness equipment manufacturer, in partnership with the Geisinger Health System of Danville and the Buffalo Valley Recreation Authority,
The Miller family will contribute approximately $2.5 million to build the 90,000-square-foot recreation and wellness center, said Playworld President Matthew Miller, adding the idea came from his wife, Beth.
“We are in the throes of running around four kids, ages 8, 7, 4, and 21 months, to different events and many different activities,” Miller told the Daily Item. “She and her friends, who are also running around their kids, talked and thought wouldn’t it be great to have a place we’re all happy to go to.”
That prompted a conversation with Meridian Development Partners, which welcomed the project. Meridian is a developer behind reinventing the former Pennsylvania House furniture property into Penn House Commons, a shopping and multiuse center.
As lifelong residents of Lewisburg, the Miller family wanted a place that the whole community could use “right in the center of town. It will be a long-term legacy for the community.”
As envisioned, the facility will include multiple spaces for assorted programs, an indoor field, multipurpose hard-surface courts, activity rooms and areas for exercise, gymnastics and other sports and fitness activities.
Other plans include physical therapy, athletic training and exercise physiology, a healthy food café with a nutrition education center and additional wellness-related programs and amenities.
Sports Facilities Advisory, a leading resource for sports complexes and recreation centers, will develop an action plan to create the recreation center and a revenue model that will sustain the community center on its own. There is no date set yet for a groundbreaking, Miller said.
Geisinger Health System will provide additional funding and wellness programming guidance and develop a wellness and community health research program within the center.
Existing Buffalo Valley Recreation Authority programs will be the basis for developing new recreational assets, such as, for instance, the authority’s popular gymnastics program.
“We are excited to partner with community leaders and organizations to develop this new center,” said David Ledbetter, executive vice president and chief scientific officer of Geisinger Health System. “This center will provide a unique opportunity to explore strategies for weight loss, improve eating habits and change the role of exercise in the health and wellness of individuals in our community.”
Buffalo Valley Recreation Authority currently uses about 25 separate facilities for its programming, said Jim Mathias, chairman of the authority and a consultant on the center project. “
“This new recreation center will allow us to centralize our operations, realize significant economies of scale and, most importantly, improve the experience of all of our customers,” he said. “Our ability to improve and expand our offerings has been hampered by the availability of suitable, local space.”