Grand opening

Everyone was invited to take part in the ribbon-cutting festivities at the grand opening of the BlueCross Healthy Place at Huntland City Park on Saturday. Holding the blue scissors, from left, are Scott Wilson, director of community relations and Health Foundation; Mitch Gardner, pastor at Huntland Pentecostal Church; Huntland Mayor Dolton Steele; Vice Mayor Ann Gardner; and BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee CEO JD Hickey.

Hundreds of Huntland residents and visitors from surrounding communities joined city officials and representatives from the BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee Health Foundation on Saturday to celebrate the eagerly awaited grand opening of the BlueCross Healthy Place at the Huntland City Park.

Numerous Franklin County elected officials attended the ribbon-cutting ceremony and enjoyed the festivities, including County Mayor David Alexander, State Sen. Janice Bowling, Sheriff Tim Fuller and State Rep. Iris Rudder.

JD Hickey, BlueCross chief executive officer, was also on hand to show his support, as was Franklin County Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Michelle Earle.

Hickey enjoyed the morning and played with his boys while exploring the many amenities available at the BlueCross Healthy Place.

The grand opening began at 10 a.m. when Huntland Vice-Mayor Ann Gardner addressed the gathering. She thanked attendees for coming out to show their support and welcomed everyone to the impressive venue.

Gardner then introduced the Spirit of Huntland Marching Band, which was led by Wesley Brockman, who is the Huntland School Band director and music teacher.

Following a patriotic performance of the national anthem, Gardner introduced Huntland Mayor Dolton Steele.

Steele thanked community members, volunteers and representatives from the Health Foundation for their hard work and cooperation in building the fully-accessible BlueCross Healthy Place.

Steele said that the many features of the BlueCross Healthy Place could be enjoyed by people of all ages, including those with disabilities.

Gardner then introduced Scott Wilson, director of community relations and foundation.

Wilson began his speech by thanking elected officeholders for attending the grand opening before emphasizing the importance of community and the vital need for transformational community spaces where communities can get together for the betterment of all.

Wilson then thanked everyone involved with the BlueCross Healthy Place team before thanking Chattanooga-based PlayCore, the company responsible for constructing the impressive BlueCross Healthy Place.

Wilson concluded his speech by recalling how he was honored to meet with many community members on his visits to Huntland, and he said he was also honored to be a part of the day’s festivities.

Gardner was then reintroduced and thanked everyone involved with the day’s grand opening, including the Huntland School Band, Sarah and Ellis Counts and the Counts family, and the BlueCross’ Health Foundation. 

The opening remarks concluded with a prayer and a blessing which was administered by Mitch Gardner, pastor of Huntland Pentecostal Church.

Everyone in attendance was then invited onto the basketball court to take part in the ribbon-cutting ceremony and group photo.

The fun began as the BlueCross Healthy Place was finally open to the large gathering. Children and adults explored the park’s many amenities.

PlayCore representatives were positioned throughout the venue to ensure that everyone took advantage of all the features offered with the playground equipment and walking trail.

These included interactive electronics, touch-sensitive interfaces and a host of other modern and fully accessible features.

Bowling and Rudder toured the facility and were assisted by representatives and guides from PlayCore.

The amenities were a huge hit with the many children who wasted no time in exploring every inch of playground equipment.

Hamburgers and hot dogs were cooked on site by the Huntland Lions Club and were served with bottled water and other refreshments. DJ services were provided by Al Tipps.

Some of the many features of the BlueCross Healthy Place include a full basketball court with bleachers, a fully accessible playground, a walking track with outdoor fitness equipment, water fountains, picnic tables, grills and parking areas.