New sports facilities in Highlands Ranch offer variety for local athletes


There's a facility for competitive strength training. There's one with boot camps for young athletes. There's an institute for sports vision conditioning. And a gym with hourlong classes for those with busy lifestyles.

In the past year, at least 10 athletic gyms have opened in Highlands Ranch, a reflection not only of how active the community is but also of a fit state.

“Colorado, in general, breeds athletic, health-conscious people,” said Kate Criswell, a fitness and nutrition trainer in the area.

The state has continuously been in the top 10 healthiest states. This year, it was ranked eighth by America's Health Rankings. And Highlands Ranch's demographics support the growth in sports facilities.

It's easier for athletes to get training in places on the outskirts of Denver such as Highlands Ranch, said Jay Albright, surgical director of the Sports Medicine Center at Children's Hospital Colorado.

“It's also a young, vibrant community” he added. “A lot of families are moving to the area."

The community has six high schools with competitive sports programs. The Rocky Mountains are a short drive away. And the suburban lifestyle is ideal for young, active families.

It makes sense for entrepreneurs to get into the fitness industry, said Jim Royce, co-general manager of Backcountry CrossFit in Highlands Ranch.

CrossFit, a competitive strength training sport, opened its doors in July 2012 and now has just short of 700 members.

“Wanting to get fit isn't just a trend,” Royce said, alluding to the state's overall emphasis on healthy living.

That lifestyle is generating different opportunities for entrepreneurs to take advantage of.

“We've definitely had an increase in members in the fitness category,” said Andrea LaRew, president of the Highlands Ranch Chamber of Commerce. “Colorado — and our area — tend to be active and healthy.”

Following are three new businesses that opened in the last six months:

For sports teams in training, D1 Sports has a state-of-the art basketball court and 40-yard indoor field. Athletes can attend boot camps and strength classes.

The facility, at 1060 Plaza Drive, is co-owned by professional athletes such as former NBA all-star Chauncey Billups. He makes an appearance about once a week, said Adam McLaughlin, speed and strength coach.

The three different training levels — Rockies, developmental and prep — provide something for athletes of all ages.

“Our thought process is how much better we'd be if we had something like this as children,” McLaughlin said.

McLaughlin sees a lot of competition in youth sports. He and his team want to provide the best coaching for young athletes.

“People are taking to athletics a lot more,” McLaughlin said. “We are building all-around athleticism here.”

Jeff Ward, a member of the American Board of Optometry and primary doctor at Highlands Ranch Optical, considers his new Rocky Mountain Sports Vision Institute a “legal performance enhancer” for young athletes.

“We are going to train completely different aspects of the visual system,” Ward said.

Ward will use state-of-the-art instruments and devices to track an athlete's depth perception, reaction time, eye-hand-foot coordination and peripheral awareness.

He will then evaluate the athlete's visual skills and create a 12-week training program.

The institute, located at 9370 S. Colorado Blvd. and scheduled to open Nov. 22, is better suited for some athletes over others. For example, a golfer's eyes can be trained for peripheral focus so he or she can read the green better, said Ward.

Sports that involve head injuries, such as football or soccer, also have an impact on the visual system.

Ward will end his programs with positive visualization to prepare the athlete for success in future games.

For those who aren't as involved in competitive sports, Manic Training at 2000 E. County Line Road has hour-long classes three times a week.

Graham Muir, founder of Manic Training, chose Highlands Ranch as his fourth location because of the people who enjoy doing outdoor sports such as skiing, hiking and biking.

“We use a hybrid method,” Muir said. “We do everything from strength training to intervals to core work.”

The classes attract ex-athletes such as Erin Simmons Nemec, a pro snowboarder and X-Games medalist.

“Because the workout is so diverse, it targets different muscles every time,” said Nemec, who traveled from Steamboat for Manic's Oct. 27 grand opening of the Highlands Ranch location.

The workouts are for busy, active people who want to build strength for activities outside the gym. The goal isn't to keep people inside, said Peter Beuth, co-owner and primary trainer at the Highlands Ranch facility.

“We want to give people the ability to fuse an outdoor lifestyle with health and wellness,” Beuth said. “We'll give you the workout your body needs and send you back out into life.”


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