A freestanding climbing wall with craggy angles and multiple inclines steals the spotlight at Vandalia Recreation Center by soaring to 27 feet up the middle of an atrium. But climbing is far from the 58,000-square-foot center’s only attraction. Gravity-bound members burn calories at a fleet of cardio machines and build muscle with strength equipment and free weights in the fitness center, and a three-lane, 1/16-mile track helps runners train for catching the gingerbread man. At the Aquatic Center, a zero-depth entry pool welcomes swimmers who rack up laps and children who whoosh down a twisting waterslide and through a giant frog’s mouth or frolic in waterfalls. A vortex and bubble bench set the stage for aquatic fitness, useful for independent exercise or formal classes.
Aquatic aerobics sessions join plenty of other organized activities on the center’s bustling schedule of fitness classes. Students stretch during yoga, break a sweat to the Latin beats of Zumba, and pump their legs through spinning classes. While parents work up a sweat, their offspring head to childcare at Ricky’s Tiny Tikes (ages 6 months to 4 years) or Luther’s Jungle indoor playground. Here, children 4 and older clamber through the jungle-themed slides, tubes, and nets with the help of a bi-level play structure or polish their da Vinci forgeries with paper and crayons.
Glow-in-the-dark palm trees rise above Englewood Fun Center’s 18-hole miniature golf course, greeting guests as they arrive to partake in any of the center’s indoor or outdoor attractions. Clients don Hawaiian leis before taking to the 18-hole, custom-designed mini golf course, where they will lope through a tropical pastiche of tiki huts, misting waterfalls, two ponds, and multiple bearded Tom Hankses. Indoors, scampering tykes can slip on socks and tumble freely among the cushy walls and elastic floors of the inflatable bouncing area, or try their hands at skee-ball and other games in the arcade. The indoor facility also encompasses three batting cages, where hitters shoulder their favorite bat or oversized banana and swing at soft or hardballs delivered at adjustable speeds and heights to accommodate all ages and skill levels.
Members of the Women’s Flat Track Derby Association, the Black-n-Bluegrass Rollergirls celebrate the independent spirit of women by hunting as a pack. During high-energy bouts, the team circles around a short track, pushing and shoving as the jammer attempts to score points by skating past the throng. Founded in 2006, the Rollergirls spent one and a half years recruiting and training before completing their first full season, today siccing two competitive teams on other leagues throughout the Midwest’s flat hardwood plains. Though the Rollergirls offer no mercy in the rink, they dedicate their time outside it to helping others within the community. The squad regularly volunteers for activities and events throughout northern Kentucky and help raise funds for local charities. To raise awareness for the sport, the team was also the focus of a 2009 documentary titled Black-n-Bluegrass, which chronicled the players’ regular lives and addressed misconceptions surrounding their beloved pastime.
With 10 national championships to their name and another 76 conference titles to boot, the Cincinnati Bearcats boast more than century of athletic tradition. Though the student athletes thrive in many different sports, the basketball program—which won back-to-back NCAA Championships in 1961 and 1962—is the school's crown jewel. Before embarking on a professional career that earned him a spot among the 50 Greatest Players in NBA History, The Big O cut his hard-court skills for the Bearcats, averaging a staggering 33.8 points per game in his three years at UC. In more recent years, the Bearcats football team has enjoyed its own run as a true contender, earning bowl berths in 2009, 2011, and 2012. In both 2011 and 2012, the squad pounced on their postseason opponents, taking home glittering trophies to use as tackling dummies in training camp.
The Florence Freedom, a professional team of baseballers in the Independent Frontier League, re-create the classic thrill of America’s third-most popular sport, after skeet shooting and spelunking, without all the food fights and explosive bat malfunctions that are all too common at major-league games. With today’s deal, fans get reserved-seat tickets for any home game (a $10 value) all month and enjoy a true gourmet meal consisting of a hot dog, chips, and a drink (a $7 value). Miniature novelty adults, meanwhile, can burn off excess energy with a pass to the KidsZone (a $5 value)—a multicolored playground set complete with a bounce house and other playsets—or spend five Freedom Bucks (a $5 value) as they see fit at the park's concession stands or gift shop, making it far more valuable currency than the one you created by taping your driver's license photo to old Monopoly money.