A special type of outdoor fitness apparatus found in a few choice destinations nationwide will rise in the soon-to-open Reserve Park in Gainesville.
Called the Traveling Rings, it has 10 aluminum rings, each of which is linked to a steel support or beam and suspended by a chain 7 feet above ground. Each ring is 8 feet apart, and the entire structure is 18 feet tall and about 75 feet long.
Success for the user is traveling from one ring to the next by a combination of arm pulls and leg swings as long as desired – or, more likely, physically possible.
“The feeling of swinging from one ring to the next feels like flying,” said Daniel Alves, a member of Friends of Reserve Park, who proposed bringing the rings to Gainesville.
The closest Traveling Rings to the city is 700 miles away in Virginia Beach, Virginia.
According to the website travelingrings.org, the apparatus is also outdoors on a beach in Santa Monica and at a trapeze school in Escondido, both in California; Riverside Park along the Hudson River in New York; Pearsall Park in San Antonio; an upscale gym in Park City, Utah, and a city park near Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island.
“It’s very much like watching Spider-Man do his thing,” said David Ayers, the former owner of Trapeze High, a school in San Diego County.
The site of a former U.S. Army Reserve Center in northeast Gainesville is becoming Reserve Park after sitting unused for most of the last decade. In 2018, the city finalized plans to transform the 6.8-acre lot, at 1125 NE Eighth Ave., into a park.
Funded by Wild Spaces and Public Places, a half-cent sales tax voters approved in 2016, Reserve Park is expected to open in the fall. Besides Traveling Rings, it will also include a memorial to the park’s military history and those who served in the armed forces. Other features will include a military-style obstacle course, public art and sculptures, a nature- and adventure-inspired playground, an amphitheater and walking trail.
Models of Traveling Rings date back to Scotland in the 1880s, according to Gabe Hernandez, a consultant based in Los Angeles who created travelingrings.org in 2011.
The rings appeared on the East Coast in the 1890s at public parks, YMCAs and community centers. In the 1960s, a set was built at the Original Muscle Beach in Santa Monica. The equipment is manufactured by L.A. SteelCraft in Pasadena, California.
“I’ve seen children as young as 3 years old using the rings successfully, and I’ve seen adults as old as 83 using the rings successfully,” Hernandez said.
Alves, 39, an interactive web designer, campaigned for the rings to be a feature of Reserve Park during focus group meetings and a public engagement session in 2017.
He had heard about the rings through YouTube and tried them first in Santa Monica.
“It’s just a really fun and challenging activity that kind of brings people together,” Alves said. “It also fosters other healthy activities like body-weight exercises, slacklining and hula hooping and other fun things that bring communities together.”
Brandi Sadler, owner of Wildflower Yoga on Northwest 10th Avenue, was excited to learn the Traveling Rings would soon be nearby. Sadler said those in the yoga and CrossFit communities would enjoy a new outdoor exercise opportunity.
“They can take some of the practicing or the strengthening they learned in a yoga class to something like (the rings), where you have to have a lot of stability in order to not hurt yourself,” she said.
Michael Espinosa, head coach at the Ark School of Fitness on Northeast 11th Street, said he thinks a variety of people will take advantage of the rings.
“I see young kids kind of being adventurous and playing on them,” Espinosa said. “I see teenagers and young adults playing on them.”
LaResia Golden contributed to this story.