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Carolina Panthers remake yet another city park as part of NFL initiative

Brysyn Simpkins, 5, plays on the rope obstacle, part of the Carolina Panthers Play 60 KidZone at Freedom Park.
Brysyn Simpkins, 5, plays on the rope obstacle, part of the Carolina Panthers Play 60 KidZone at Freedom Park. ibartolucci@charlotteobserver.co

Another of Mecklenburg County’s public parks is getting an equipment makeover thanks to the Carolina Panthers and Lowe’s.

The team’s third custom-built Play 60 Challenge Course is going up at Reedy Creek Park, at a cost of more than $275,000.

Play 60 Challenge Courses are part of a 10-year-old NFL initiative to motivate children into doing at least 60 minutes of exercise each day. The playgrounds work as obstacle courses for all ages, in hopes of reaching youths who have outgrown traditional playground equipment. The other two courses are at Mecklenburg County’s Freedom Park and Hornets Nest Park

Lowe’s is a partner in the program and supplies volunteer labor to help assemble the courses and put down landscaping.

The Reedy Creek Park course includes a variety of obstacles designed to develop agility, balance and coordination. An automated timing device allows kids and parents to time themselves through the course.

Riley Fields of the Carolina Panthers says more courses are coming, including one planned for Spartanburg, S.C., next year. He calls them “next generation” play spaces.

“The best description we’ve come up with when conveying the concept of this dynamic play space is ‘NFL Combine meets Ninja Warrior’,” said Fields. “This shows kids that being active can be fun and not a chore. We give kids too many reasons to sit still these days.”

Jim Garges of Meckenburg County’s Park and Recreation Department says the other two obstacle courses donated by the Panthers and Lowe’s were an instant hit and remain heavily used.

“I’ve never seen a new play environment attract more children and families,” said Garges. “These have become regional attractions. The only thing that would attract more people would be free ice cream and Cam Newton.”

The Reedy Creek Park obstacle course is being dedicated at 6 p.m. Monday and will include a ceremonial 40-yard dash.

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