The Oneida Indian Nation’s Recreation Center is an invaluable commodity. Serving Nation Members, Health Services clients, American Indian youth and Nation employees, the Rec Center offers its patrons access to a full-sized gymnasium, fitness room, lounge area, kitchen and plenty of storage space. A softball field and box lacrosse field are on-site while a playground and outdoor pool are also available nearby on Territory Road.

Recreation Supervisor Cole Perkins has been working at the Nation since January 2005 and has seen the center and its programs continue to grow. The Rec Center currently offers several fitness classes, training programs and recreational sports leagues, but it is also a home for many of the Nation’s youth programs.

In coordination with the Youth Development Department, the Rec Center provides several youth, adult and family-oriented programs. These include an After School Program designed to further develop students’ social, physical and educational development, and the successful Youth Ambassadors Program, which encourages students in grades seven and up to become active in the community.

“We consistently get 20-30 kids in the after school program daily,” Perkins says. “Everybody that works in Recreation helps out with the youth programs and Donna (Howe) helps us too. Youth get the education background and the sports background so it’s a win-win.”

Howe is the Nation’s Youth Development Program Coordinator and she works side-by-side with Cole and Barb George-Winton (Wolf Clan), the center’s Administrative Assistant.

“We try to bring the community together with family outings,” George-Winton says. “We’ve been to Syracuse Crunch and Chiefs games, SU basketball games and Rochester Knighthawks lacrosse games.”

The trips, coordinated by Gym Attendant Ben Kimball, are offered to provide Nation Members and their families with an affordable fun night out. Kimball experiments with different types of events, from cross country ski trips to Syracuse basketball games, to gauge the community’s interest.

“This place is for them,” Kimball says. “It’s nice to be able to give Nation Members and Health Services clients a little something extra.”

The center also conducts sports clinics throughout the year that have included lacrosse, basketball, football, soccer, archery, field hockey, boxing, wrestling, baseball and volleyball. Basketball and volleyball leagues are especially popular during the winter months.

“We get high employee participation in volleyball leagues and softball is starting up soon,” Perkins says. “The leagues are always very popular and fill up.”

Physical fitness classes are offered at noon and at the end of the work day at 5:30 and 6:30 p.m. Circuit Training is among the most popular and is a bigger class that takes up the whole gym. Perkins says there’s usually around 8-10 stations of endurance or strength training exercises and either himself, or Kimball, coach participants through each station. Class sizes range from six to fifteen participants.

Other fitness classes include Combat Fitness, which combines boxing, martial arts and wrestling elements, Kettlebell Training, Core Training and Insanity Live, which is among the most intense workouts offered. Perkins says the center also has a new walking program and the increasingly popular Running Club begins on April 12.

The Rec Center staff is always open to new ideas. The center is considering starting a lacrosse program for the spring and a cross-country ski club for next winter if there is enough interest. Cross country skiing is more fitness-oriented and generally safer than downhill skiing, which would allow more people to sign up.

Fitness programs and classes are a great way for the Nation community to stay healthy and socialize. The center continues to grow and looks forward to expanding its reach.

“Attendance is going up on average, and the health and social benefits are great for the community,” Perkins says. “But I think more people can benefit from our programs.”

The Oneida Nation Recreation Center is a free facility and open to Oneida Members, children of enrolled Oneidas, Health Services clients and employees age 16 and older. Get back in shape and take advantage of these fitness classes and programs. A monthly calendar of events is available on the Nation’s homepage. For more information call (315) 829-8484 or visit www.oneidaindiannation.org/recreation-youth-development/