Panthers Play 60 unveiled at The Rail Yard

August 1st 2018

Published by the Spartanburg Herald Journal; to view the full article, click here

Stephen Davis looked at the strip of turf, 40 yards long, and didn’t hesitate.

The former Spartanburg High, Auburn University and Carolina Panthers star running back had no doubt how quickly he could cover that ground.

“4.4 (seconds),” Davis said. “Easy 4.4.”

Davis was in town for the unveiling of the Panthers Play 60 obstacle course Wednesday at the Rail Yard.

Panthers Play 60 is described as a cross between an NFL Combine and American Ninja Warrior. It includes a timed 40-yard dash, a traverse wall, floating boards and other obstacles to challenge children’s agility. There are less than 20 of these parks in the country.

“This is a big deal for these kids,” Davis said. “Kids growing up these days are always in the house playing video games. To have parks like this to keep them active and motivated about being physically fit, it’s great.”

Mitch Kennedy, the city’s community services director, said Panthers Play 60 was a team effort, specifically thanking the Mary Black Foundation, Partners for Active Living, and the city’s Parks and Recreation Department for their work funding, planning, designing and developing the park.

“Back in the early days of the Panthers, there was a term called ‘Team Spartanburg.’ You don’t hear that term as much, but it still exists. The essence about what Team Spartanburg’s about is still present today, and today represents Team Spartanburg,” Kennedy said. “This is all about teamwork. Teamwork made dreams work.”

The football-themed obstacle course is only one aspect of the Rail Yard, which also includes the Trolley Plaza, Watershed Amphitheater, and a picnic shelter. The park held its grand opening ribbon cutting earlier Wednesday morning.

“Any day we open a play space is a great day,” said Kim Moultrie, director of Parks and Recreation. “But a day to open two play spaces is almost perfection for us in Parks and Rec.”

Joining Davis attended the event were current Panthers Devin Funchess, Mario Addison and James Bradberry, as well as mascot Sir Purr and other team representatives.

“For the kids to have something to run around and play on, it means a lot to them,” Addison said. “A lot of kids want to stay in the house and play video games. A playground like this teaches kids that it’s OK to exercise and have fun.”

Sir Purr, Addison, Funchess and Bradberry led three groups of children from C.C. Woodson and the Northwest Community Center’s summer camps in a 40-yard dash to open the park before dozens of children swarmed the new playground.

“It’s kind of fun,” said Hy’keem Buckman, a 10-year-old camper who came to the park opening with the Bethlehem Center. “We get to exercise on equipment like what they use on my football team, and it’s kinda fun.”

Buckman said his favorite part of the obstacle course was the Ninja Steps.

“It helps me get good at moving my body and my feet,” he said.

In 2017, Spartanburg-based Partners for Active Living and the city of Spartanburg solidified plans for The Rail Yard, which they are still expanding. Partners for Active Living recently announced the Bike Yard, a planned BMX bike practice course that will be built in the Rail Yard.

“We had this park built on the momentum and success of the Rail Trail, and we worked with the city to put in something really unique and special that caters to kids of all ages, especially older youth,” said Laura Ringo, executive director of Partners for Active Living. “We hope they’ll have a blast being active and healthy.”

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