For outdoor enthusiasts and fitness fanatics alike, Henrico County is a treasure trove for the active community.
Perhaps it has something to do with more than 40 parks and recreational facilities. Or the Virginia Capital Trail, offering 52 miles of dedicated trails for the avid runner or cyclist. Possibly, it’s the easy access to the James River, with calm stretches for casual tubing or intense class IV rapids for whitewater rafting. Or perhaps its Henrico’s central location – less than 2 hours from both Virginia Beach and the Shenandoah Mountains.
Planning for Outdoor Recreation
Accolades like this don’t happen by chance, Pam Kempf, Marketing Specialist for Henrico Recreation and Parks, will tell you. Planning for recreation and outdoor entertainment is an investment Henrico County prioritizes.
“We’re always evaluating,” Kempf explains. “But not only are we noticing need – we’re hearing requests. We’re constantly asking ourselves, ‘What can we do to make [our facilities] more relevant today?’”
In 2016, Henrico voters overwhelmingly passed a bond referendum that provided $87.1 million for parks projects. It was just the boost Recreation and Parks needed to put several wheels in motion – including the completion of Glover Park, a tournament-quality athletic complex resting on 88 acres in Glen Allen that opened in March 2018.
Even before the official opening, Glover Park got a great “kick-start.” For six consecutive weeks starting in February, the combined events of the Ultimate Cup and Jefferson Cup attracted 1,700 soccer teams to the region from all across the U.S.
Kempf also points out the smaller additions that add vibrancy to the active community, such as this year’s new pickleball courts at Pouncey Tract Park and a cricket pit at Capital Park. She revealed that each year, three area schools will undergo grass-to-turf field conversions so that the county can benefit from year-round use.
Steven Yob, Director of the Henrico Department of Public Works, says his department is just as meticulous when choosing projects that mindfully improve activity for the community.
Recent projects executed by the Department of Public Works include the completion of a one-mile bike/pedestrian trail on Northgate Road and an access point to the Virginia Capital Trail in Dorey Park. Yob says the addition has been tremendously popular and his department is currently considering where it can create more connections to the Trail.
Finding Your Inner “Elite”
Not everyone feels the call of the great outdoors. For those who prefer to be active inside, Henrico offers unique options – including 30-minute workouts at 9Round, rock climbing at Triangle Rock Club and professional training at ONYX ELITE, a personal performance facility near Willow Lawn.
National and international soccer star Oguchi Onyewu launched the training facility in 2017 with the help of business partner Chris Gorres. For Onyewu, the impressive 6'4" defender who represented the United States in the 2006 and 2010 World Cups, the business is personal.
“The way that ONYX was spawned and created was that throughout my career, I was privy to all the top-class training facilities,” Onyewu explains. “I worked on a business plan based on everything I was exposed to: Train like a pro.”
“That means not doing everything that Lebron James does, but being treated like Lebron James … providing top-quality training, injury prevention, corporate health, sports performance to everyday people, no matter their skill level.”
Homing in on Henrico
When asked why Onyewu chose Henrico to build his business, his answer was simple: He wanted to have a big presence on the East Coast and his research showed that Henrico would be a great place to start.
“We found that [the area] was a hotbed for sports on all levels,” Onyewu explains. “There are so many schools, sports clubs and teams here. A lot of athletes come out of it. And for whatever reason, there’s no sports performance that has a strong presence here.”
Onyewu has had tremendous results and found word of mouth to be one of his best forms of advertisement. Members remark they’ve never trained like they do there and have spread the word to friends and family. The Henrico model proved so strong, he was able to build another facility in Reston, Virginia. “We came to blow [the area] up and put it on a grand scale in regard to the health and fitness industry,” says Onyewu.
The Best of Active Living
Henrico’s growing number of parks, trails, gyms, and other attractions offers something for any active lifestyle. This year, TripAdvisor called our region a Destination on the Rise. But for many who live in Henrico and regularly get to enjoy all it has to offer, we’ve already arrived.
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