Mississippi College

Baptist Healthplex Celebrates 10th Birthday

October 8, 2007

Baptist Healthplex members feasted on birthday cake, Seattle Drip coffee and bunches of bananas as the fitness facility celebrated its 10th anniversary Monday.

Joining specials were offered all day at the $12 million facility on the Mississippi College campus as a radio DJ spun records and folks enjoyed the festivities. Also home to offices for doctors, nurses and an eye clinic, and plenty of community meeting rooms, the spacious complex off Clinton Boulevard seems brand new.

"It certainly looks first-class," said Caby Byrne, a former New York marathon runner who joined the Healthplex amid its balloon-filled celebration. A 1954 MC graduate, who was director of religious affairs at his alma mater in the late 1950s and early 1960s, Byrne was enticed by the swimming pool, indoor walking track, treadmill machines and other top-notch equipment to sign up.

He and his wife, Betty, a retired teacher and 1963 MC graduate, didn't tote all their workout equipment when they recently moved here from Memphis. Staying fit at least 20 more years is his goal, Byrne said. The 74-year-old Brookhaven native worked as a hospice administrator in Memphis before retiring and returning to the Magnolia State. Betty Byrne said she can't wait to check out the water aerobics.

Baptist Healthplex newcomers like the Byrnes joined regulars at the facility that's home to 4,900 members, including 1,500 MC students.

"This is a good way to unwind," said MacArthur Murphy, 56, a truck driver with UPS freight trucks, as he finished up a workout and headed to his car. At his age, he said, "I can't burn off the calories. Now I've got to do something extra. This facility is nice. It is very accessible to the community," said the Jackson resident. Murphy, who makes the 498-mile round-trip journey to Birmingham several times a week, likes to hang out and get caught up with friends on his trips to the Healthplex.

By late Monday afternoon, more than 30 new members signed up during the celebration.

The birthday party coincided with Fall Break for MC students, but a number of them showed up on their vacation from MC classes. "I love it - it's big and you don't have to wait on the machines," said MC junior Jaclyn Matthews, 20, a criminal justice major from Pineville, La. "It relieves a lot of stress from class," said the future lawyer. Matthews also gets a kick out of her "funk at 4" aerobics class at the Healthplex.

Choctaws football player Jermaine Jenkins, a physical education major, is happy to be part of the Healthplex team. "I like a lot of different activities and the free weights," said the Wisconsin native who's a senior at the Christian university. Often the daily workouts for the defensive end begin at 5 a.m. He enjoys the aerobics classes, the whirlpool and the sauna.

The 106,000 square-foot facility is a 50-50 partnership between Mississippi College and Baptist Health Systems. The next big fall event at the facility? It's the second annual Gettin' Fit for Turkey Challenge Nov. 1-16 to help members prepare for the holiday season when it's easy to put on a few extra pounds.

For additional information about the Baptist Healthplex, call 601-925-7900.

PHOTO CAPTION: Caby Byrne, a former New York marathon runner, and his wife, Betty, a retired school teacher and Mississippi College graduate, recently moved to Clinton from Memphis. Attracted by all the facility offers, the Clinton newcomers signed up for membership during the 10th anniversary celebration of the Baptist Healthplex in Clinton.

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