By Amy Wenk
Kids are running out of room to tumble in Sandy Springs.
The gymnastics program has grown so fast city officials now are considering leasing a second facility to ease crowded classes and expand offerings.
“We are busting at the seams,” said Sandy Springs Director of Recreation and Parks Ronnie Young. “We run classes from early morning to 8 or 9 o’clock at night.”
The gym is open Monday through Saturday and has classes for gymnasts from 9 months old to adult.
“It’s overcrowded you see because you are limited to the number of children you put in a class,” he said. “This causes tremendous safety hazards because of the small parking lot.”
With the overcrowding at Hammond Park and no private gymnastics clubs in Sandy Springs, finding a spot in a gymnastics program can be a challenge.
The city of Atlanta, for instance, doesn’t offer gymnastics programs, said Atlanta spokeswoman Sharon Davis. Last year many of the city’s recreation centers were closed due to budget cuts, Davis said. Residents who want to enroll their children in gymnastics must seek private instruction. “There is just no way around it,” Davis said.
Davis said gymnastics could be offered in the future. Mayor Kasim Reed’s Centers of Hope initiative aims to reopen the city’s recreational facilities.
Unless Sandy Springs expands its program, new participants might have a hard time finding a spot in peak-hour classes.
“We can maybe accommodate 50 more people, but that’s it,” said Sandy Springs Recreation and Athletics Manager Marina Davidovich. “We are pretty much at the peak.”
Sandy Springs city officials are discussing allocating $500,000 in next year’s budget to lease, retrofit, staff and equip a new 9,000-square-foot facility to relocate about 300 gymnasts.
Davidovich wants to increase the level of gymnastics instruction offered. Competitive cheerleading and boy’s gymnastics would be added as well.
“We’ve been up and down Roswell Road trying to find an adequate place,” Young said.
If a second facility is acquired in the city, Young expects the program to grow to 2,000 gymnasts.
“There is definitely a need for this activity,” said Davidovich, a native of Ukraine who began rhythmic gymnastics at age 5. She managed all the gymnastics training sites during the 1996 Olympic Games.
“Gymnastics is pretty much the base for many sports,” Davidovich said. “It is for flexibility and coordination and strength.”
When Sandy Springs incorporated, the city had less than 100 children participating in its gymnastics program. Classes were taught by two instructors in the small gym at Hammond Park.
After Sandy Springs became a city, the gymnastics program was one of the first things that Young improved. The basketball gym at Hammond Park was converted for gymnasts and $90,000 of new equipment was purchased, he said.
“Once we put that in there our numbers started skyrocketing,” Young said. “They jumped in a two-year period.”
Now five years later, the gymnastics program has 17 instructors and last fall enrollment peaked to 1,160 gymnasts.
It’s a wonder that Davidovich can keep up. She must create a spreadsheet for each day that tells each instructor exactly what time their class can use what equipment in the gym.
“It gets really sophisticated,” Davidovich said. “It takes a little time and energy to make sure that nobody is stepping on each other’s toes.”
Young credits Davidovich and the program’s instructors for the popularity of the city’s gymnastics program.
One of the coaches, Daniella Silva, won three gold medals at the 19988 Olympic Games in Seoul, South Korea. During her career, the Romanian gymnast scored 19 perfect “10s” at major competitions.
“That’s the reason for the growth,” Young said. “Those instructors are excellent.”