By Matias J. Ocner
Read in Miami Herald
One afternoon last week, Luis Marquez left his high school and knew exactly where he wanted to go.
“We had early release today so I just decided to come to the park for a bit, work out and play basketball,” said Marquez, 16, who lives in Little Havana and wants to someday become a SWAT officer. “I like Shenandoah Park a lot and with the new equipment it got my attention.”
Teaching young adults like Marquez about nutrition and health are some of the goals Coca-Cola and the city of Miami had in mind when they teamed up to renovate Shenandoah Park, located at 1800 SW 21st Ave.
Coca-Cola donated more than $200,000 in a grant to help the city expand the park’s playground, build an outdoor fitness equipment area and upgrade its tennis courts.
“The park looks like it’s getting a lot bigger,” said Marquez, who attends Miami Senior High School and is part of the school wrestling team. “It looks nice and a lot better than before.”
Shenandoah is one of the oldest areas in the city of Miami and its park is one of the most visited in the city. For Miami Mayor Tomas Regalado, the renovations will now help the community grow.
“This is a very unique place because you have the old timers and the new residents,” said Regalado, who lived in the area for more than 50 years. “The families here are not part of the climate of eating healthy or exercising, these are working people. If we add the component of eating right and training, I think it will do great for this neighborhood.”
Encouraging those who use the facility to think about exercising is a main goal for Coca-Cola, said Melanie Jones, market unit general manager for South Florida Coca-Cola.
“We are always looking for ways to engage in active healthy lifestyles for young people,” said Jones, who helped approve the renovation project that took about eight weeks to complete and includes free workout classes. “Programing will go to tennis lessons and a fitness boot camp that will utilize the equipment we installed.”
To celebrate the parks renovation, Coca-Cola hosted a family field day on Saturday. The event included a ribbon cutting ceremony, hula hoop contests and a wellness expo. Florida’s State Surgeon General John Armstrong and Miami City Commissioner Francis Suarez also gave short speeches to a crowd of more than 100 guests.
“Nowadays we have to evolve with the different activities that kids are engaging in,” Suarez said. “You are seeing more and more that they are engaging in cardiovascular activities, either weight lifting or using their own body weight and this is keeping with the trend.”
Among the crowd of attendees was Taymara Linarte, who came to the event alongside her children, Arturo, 12, and Marie, 9, and her 4-month-old baby, Jacqueline.
“In my opinion this will help parents come to the park with their kids and adolescents will be able to come hangout with their friends,” said Linarte, who is usually found visiting the library near the park and sees the renovation as a way to help create unity within the community.
For park hours and directions, visit miamigov.com/parks.