Part of creating a healthier community means providing individuals with the opportunity to make healthier choices.

“Not looking for people to carve out 30 minutes a day or an hour a day in order to go to the gym, we’re looking at lifestyle,” said Ardmore Institute of Health program manager Michelle Sinkler.

On any typical day at the Southern Oklahoma Technology Center there are 700 full time students and 1,000 part-time students attending classes; and while there have been initiatives to provide students with healthier eating options, there hasn’t necessarily been a spot for them to exercise on campus, said Superintendent David Powell.

On Monday, Nov. 4, the Ardmore Institute of Health presented Southern Tech with a $40,000 check to go towards a new outdoor basketball court that will function doubly as a volleyball court, in addition to two pickleball courts.

“He has 1,000 people that he can impact and that makes it where people who are visiting this campus or are in this area can make physical activity a part of their everyday lives,” Sinkler said. “Their students between breaks can go out and shoot hoops, they’ll do some programs to maybe engage students and staff to be more physically active.”

Powell said the project is expected to be complete by March 1, with the courts slated to be built between the Engineering Tech building and the Industry Training Center, located towards the back of the 120 acre campus.

The area will be open to students and faculty, as well as the general public during Southern Tech’s normal hours of operation or until 9 p.m.

“People drive by here all of the time and they think this is our campus,” Powell said, gesturing to the few buildings on the front side of campus. “They don’t know what we have going on here, so I’m excited to get people coming up here.”

Sinkler said the Ardmore Institute of Health is always looking for opportunities to create places that help incorporate physical activity into the daily lives of citizens.

With pickleball, a sport that combines elements of tennis, badminton and table tennis, increasing in popularity and Southern Tech striving to create a healthier lifestyle for its students, the project seemed like a great opportunity.

“There’s just so many reasons why we say yes to pickleball to engage people to get more physically active in their lives,” Sinkler said. “You look at the history of it, wherever it’s planted, it takes off on its own once people have had the chance to play it. It’s of all ages. You don’t have to be an athlete to play it. It’s fun and it’s engaging and it’s also a social sport.”

The two institutions’ partnership was ideal with the common goal in mind, Sinkler said. In the future, the public education institution plans to find more ways to increase physical activity and encourage active lifestyles among the public and its students, Powell said.

“We’ve had a walking trail around the premises, but the dream in the future is also to have a walking trail around that that will tie into this as well,” Powell said, referring to an eight acre pond that is also in the works on the campus premises.