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Running start

Newly opened Pete White Health & Wellness Center hopes to make an impact on southwest OKC health outcomes.


Pete White Center’s pool uses a salt-generated chlorine that is easier on swimmers’ skin, eyes and hair. - NORTHCARE / PROVIDED
  • NorthCare / provided
  • Pete White Center’s pool uses a salt-generated chlorine that is easier on swimmers’ skin, eyes and hair.

Pete White Health & Wellness Center officially opened to the public May 4. Ernie Schmidt was one of the very first people in line to utilize the Capitol Hill-area health facility for residents age 50 and older.

“I signed up the first day,” Schmidt said. “I had the paperwork before [the center opened].”

The 37,000 square-foot project located at 4021 S. Walker Ave. has been a highly anticipated addition for many south Oklahoma City residents. The NorthCare-operated facility named for former Ward 4 city councilman Pete White is one of several senior health and wellness centers commissioned through city funds as part of MAPS 3 (Metropolitan Area Projects Plan). The first facility, Healthy Living OKC, opened early 2017 at 11501 N. Rockwell Ave. in northwest OKC.

Two additional MAPS 3-funded health and wellness centers are also planned, one set to open in 2019 and the other in 2021.

The Pete White facility is fully equipped for meeting not only health needs, but other distinct challenges facing those older than 50. Sign-up for new members can be done at the front desk. Memberships start at $30 per month.

Schmidt mostly comes in to use the gym, walking at least 30 minutes uphill on the treadmill. He also enjoys sitting in the pool area’s heated whirlpool, which helps relieve the neuropathy in his hands and feet.

“And it’s close to Grill on the Hill, too,” Schmidt said with a grin, referencing the center’s proximity to the historic southwest OKC diner.

Diverse amenities

Nikki Dieball, director of the Pete White facility, said the center has had people from 36 different ZIP codes sign up.

“We’ve got some people driving in all the way from Harrah,” she said.

A major focus of the health facility is, of course, its gym area. There are weights on one end of the room and cardiovascular machines, such as treadmills and stationary bikes, on the other. Nearby is the group fitness room where people can join yoga, spin, tai chi and other classes.

Looping around the gym area is a walking track. Seventeen laps equal one mile, and an enormous glass window gives walkers a great view of the surrounding city.

“Everybody in the community has been really excited about this because it’s just a cool place to come walk,” Dieball said. “And the climate control is always real nice in the Oklahoma heat.”

Perhaps the most popular area — particularly in the hot summer months the Pete White Center has been open — is the heated indoor pool. The water uses salt-generated chlorine, which is easier on skin, eyes and hair.

The pool does not get any deeper than 4 feet 6 inches. Water aerobics classes hosted in the area are very well attended, usually with more than 30 participants.

“It’s kind of bursting at the seams,” Dieball said.

But the facility offers members much more than exercise opportunities. A healthy smoothie, salad and wrap snack bar opens mid-July near the entrance. A computer lab teaches basic tech and internet curriculum. There is also an on-site health clinic, a community room for various programming, an art room with a working kiln and a demo kitchen where members can learn meal-prep and healthy cooking techniques.

Dieball said the Pete White Center aims to be an all-purpose resource for community members.

“We know that everybody who walks through that front door needs something different,” she said.

The Pete White Center has a different operator from the previous MAPS health and wellness center the city built in northwest OKC. Dieball said while they are not related, the two keep a close working relationship.

“Let’s develop a program to meet every need that someone could possibly want when they walk in the door,” she said. “It’s a really cool idea, a really cool concept to this place.”

Great addition

Everything inside the Pete White Center feels fresh and new. The hallways are well-lit and spacious. Occasional flashes of bright orange in the center’s color scheme set a vibrant tone.

“There’s just this really cool energy when you walk in,” Dieball said. “People’s faces just light up and they’re like, ‘Oh my goodness! It’s so beautiful in here.’”

The director is particularly excited to be operating in south OKC, which she said is known for poor health outcomes. Dieball also hopes the Pete White Center will be part of larger revitalization efforts in the area. Overall health can be key in establishing greater economic and cultural outcomes.

“[This center] is something this community has desperately needed,” she said. “We’re thrilled to be in this community, which has typically been underserved.”

Dieball said the Pete White Center is the most direct approach possible to improving the health of the community’s over-50 population.

“The health outcomes in this area have been so poor for so long,” she said. “What better way to help change health outcomes than to put a health and wellness center right here in the middle of it?”

Pete White Health & Wellness Center is named for longtime Ward 4 city councilman Pete White. - NORTHCARE / PROVIDED
  • NorthCare / provided
  • Pete White Health & Wellness Center is named for longtime Ward 4 city councilman Pete White.

Vital improvement

Member Nancy Howard said the new facility has been more than a convenient addition to her life.

“It’s been a lifesaver to me,” she said.

Howard contracted the flu earlier this year while visiting San Diego, California. Before that, she already had asthma and compromised lungs. The sickness weakened her to the point at which she was not able to travel home. Howard had to do eight weeks of rehab in San Diego before she was well enough to get back to Oklahoma.

Even when she arrived back home, she still needed some way to continue recouping and improving her overall health. It also needed to be something that fit her price range. Eventually, she found out about the recently opened Pete White Center and saw that it fit her every need.

“As a retired person, you’re on a fixed income,” she said. “Even [other health and fitness facilities] have become out of range for me.”

Howard has been very impressed with the facility and its instructors. She is a regular user of the treadmill and also takes regular aquatic and chair fitness classes. Howard said she visits the center five days a week for at least two hours.

Overall, she said she is excited to see how the place develops and what things might be added over time. She said the price cannot be beat and the facility is a great thing for the community.

“This gives me the activity I need on a daily basis to keep from going downhill,” she said.


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