LPM Staff

A class act

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Individuals with disabilities and their families can now work out at a world-class facility. The Virginia G. Piper Sports and Fitness Center for Persons with Disabilities (SpoFit) celebrated its grand opening last month with a community celebration featuring city officials and special guests who have succeeded in their respective fields despite their disabilities, like Anthony Robles, NCAA wrestling champion and ASU alum, and Rick Romley, former Maricopa County attorney. The festivities included live music, dancing and adaptive sports demonstrations of rowing, fencing, power soccer, scuba diving and martial arts. 

Although the center has been open since October of last year, the grand opening provided an opportunity to recognize the supporters and donors who helped make the center a reality. SpoFit is owned and managed by the nonprofit Arizona Bridge to Independent Living (ABIL), the state’s largest center for independent living serving people with disabilities. ABIL broke ground on the facility on April, 2010, and by July of 2011, met its capital campaign goal of $12.5 million to build the center. 

Spofit is co-located with the Disability Empowerment Center (DEC) at 5031 E. Washington Street in Phoenix. The DEC, also owned and operated by ABIL, is a 62,000 square-foot resource center serving the disabled community; it is home to the following disability-related organizations: Arizona Autism United, Arizona Center for Disability Law, Arizona Spinal Cord Injury Association, Arizona Statewide Independent Living Council, Brain Injury Association of Arizona, Joni & Friends, Multiple Sclerosis Society, NAMI Arizona, Raising Special Kids, Symbius Medical and Valley Center for the Deaf.

SpoFit and the DEC are the only co-located, universally-designed facilities of their kind in the nation.The universally accessible 45,000-square foot sports and fitness center is much more than a gym. At SpoFit, accessibility is not an afterthought; the center was designed specifically to provide fitness, health, wellness and recreation programs for individuals with disabilities. 

Universal Design

Universal design is based on the idea that all new environments and products should, to the greatest extent possible, be usable by everyone regardless of their age, ability or circumstance. The term was coined by architect, design pioneer and disability rights advocate, Ronald L. Mace. He spent most of his life using a wheelchair and was involved in the creation of the first building code for accessibility in the country in the early 70s. 

In the late 80s, Mace established the federally-funded Center for Accessible Housing, now known as the Center for Universal Design at North Carolina State University. The Center, along with a group of advocates, developed and compiled The Principles of Universal Design:

Equitable Use: The design does not disadvantage or stigmatize any group of users.

Flexibility in Use: The design accommodates a wide range of individual preferences and abilities.

Simple, Intuitive Use: Use of the design is easy to understand, regardless of the user’s experience, knowledge, language skills or current concentration level.

Perceptible Information: The design communicates necessary information effectively to the user, regardless of ambient conditions or the user’s sensory abilities.

Tolerance for Error: The design minimizes hazards and the adverse consequences of accidental or unintended actions.

Low Physical Effort: The design can be used efficiently and comfortably, and with a minimum of fatigue.

Size and Space for Approach and Use: Appropriate size and space is provided for approach, reach, manipulation and use, regardless of the user’s body size, posture or mobility.


SpoFit’s adherence to these principles makes the facility the only one of its kind in the western United States. 

Its 7,500-square foot fitness room, located on the second floor, features inclusive fitness equipment such as Cybex “Total Access” machines (a product line developed in the United Kingdom to meet the needs of all exercise enthusiasts, including those with physical, sensory or cognitive disabilities), free weights, aerobic equipment (such as elliptical trainers, recumbent and upright bikes, SciFit treadmills and upper body ergometers) and a group fitness room. The center will offer adaptive zumba, yoga and other group classes and workshops. 

During the grand opening weekend, the center hosted the Western Regional Junior Wheelchair Basketball Tournament, sponsored by the Arizona Spinal Cord Injury Association and Arizona Disabled Sports. SpoFit’s two full-size indoor courts with 10-foot and 8-foot hoops allow users to play more competitive basketball, and can also accommodate other team sports, like power soccer, quad rugby and sit volleyball. The courts, complete with spectator seating areas, make the center the perfect new home to the Phoenix Wheelchair Rugby Team and the Banner Phoenix Wheelchair Mercury and Banner Phoenix Wheelchair Suns basketball teams. 

Other features include an aquatics center with a therapy pool, a lap pool, and a spa – all three accessible by chairlift. The lap pool and therapy pool also include an elevator lift and transfer access. A jogging track suspends above the basketball courts and can accommodate walkers, joggers and wheelchair users. A 35-foot-high synthetic rock climbing wall can challenge and entertain climbers of all abilities. 

To learn more, visit spofit.org or call 602-386-4566.  

Virginia G. Piper Sports and Fitness Center for Persons with Disabilities 
5031 E. Washington St., Phoenix

Hours of operation: Weekdays: 6:30 a.m. – 9 p.m. Saturdays: 9 a.m. – 2 p.m. Sundays: closed

Membership fees
(Daily drop-in)
Youth (15-18) $5
Adult (19+) $6
Senior (62+) $5
**Family $16

Punch pass
(12 visits valid for one year)
Youth (15-18) $50
Adult (19+) $60
Senior (62+) $50

(set up as auto-pay; first and last month due at sign-up)
Youth (15-18) $25
Adult (19+) $35
Senior (62+) $30
*Adult +1 $50
*Senior +1 $45
**Family $60

(paid up front)
Youth (15-18) $255
Adult (19+) $357
Senior (62+) $306
*Adult +1 $510
*Senior +1 $459
**Family $612

* two people in the same household
** up to six people in the same household

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