Grizzlies to energize Tom Lee Park with temporary fitness installations

In early September, the Memphis Grizzlies will launch the Grizzlies Riverfront Fitness Trail and Pop-Up Park, transforming the banks of the Mississippi River at Tom Lee Park into an experiential pilot for the best in urban fitness and recreation.

Tom Lee will continue to be the park we know and love - 30 acres of lush, green space on the banks of the iconic Mississippi, home to the equally iconic Memphis in May Festival. But for the next three months, it will also play host to a series of unique recreational opportunities: some fixed, some rotating, some one-time-only occurrences.

“This is really meant to be a public exploration of all the different ways we can use green space to meet community needs” says Diane Terrell, executive director of the Grizzlies Foundation and Community Investment team. “We saw an opportunity to get the conversation started by installing a few features and inviting the community to co-create the rest alongside us.”

The Grizzlies Riverfront Fitness Trail and Pop-Up Park – RiverFIT for short – is really two projects in one. The Fitness Trail will stretch along the western edge of Tom Lee Park between the existing sidewalk and river bank, and features six fixed stations: monkey bars, pull-up bars, abdominal benches, plyometric boxes, battle ropes and an obstacle course. Using creative signage, the equipment will be integrated with existing park assets - bike lanes, stairs, the hill at Beale Street Landing - into a full body workout for all fitness levels. (See PDF images of approved plans and equipment below.)

The Pop-Up Park includes two full-size beach volleyball courts and a lined soccer field with goals, both overlooking the Mississippi. And that still leaves plenty of green space for a rotation of alternative urban sports like bike polo, disc golf, rugby and rowing.

“We’re going for a kind of semi-orchestrated spontaneity. We want people to use the riverfront in fun and creative ways but we’re willing to jumpstart that however we can.” says Terrell

The Grizzlies, in partnership with the Riverfront Development Corporation and the City’s Department of Parks and Neighborhoods, consider this an example of tactical urbanism.  

A process already common in larger cities, tactical urbanism activates change in urban areas through smaller scale projects that tend to be grassroots in nature. The goal is to ensure community feedback and buy-in through collaboration.

Once RiverFIT is launched in early September, park users will have three months to get moving, literally and physically, in order to keep the conversation going regarding whether this urban tactic will have longevity in downtown Memphis.

“We’ll monitor the park’s usage, of course, looking at data on the number of users and the frequency of use.” said Terrell. “With this and other projects, the Grizzlies have firmly committed to help build a culture of health and fitness in Memphis, making it an integral part of who we are and how we live. We’re all very excited to see what happens over the next 3 months.”