A new gymnastics facility offers more space for training and fun in McAlester.
Heidi and Mike Tanner, owners of McAlester Elite Gymnastics Academy, or MEGA, said they’re excited for construction to be complete on a new state-of-the-art facility to expand their training capabilities and offer a fun place for local children to have fun.
“We just love building up kids," Heidi said.
“Pretty much every person we’ve talked to has told us this is a great thing for the city of McAlester,” Mike said. “They told us it’s something that the kids really need and don’t have.”
The new gym — at 13 E. Jackson Ave. in McAlester — is 11,250 square feet with a pit filled with foam at one end that allows for safe training on dismounts, tumbling, pommel horse and more.
MEGA’s first gym will remain for gymnasts 5 years old and younger, in addition to all the training for boys, which has three phases.
Girls primarily train in the new gym with a large mat floor, several balance beams, uneven bars, and more.
MEGA has previously hosted one annual meet, but will expand that to three meets throughout the year at the new gym. The gym also hosts a camp that had about 80 participants this year, and clinics throughout the year.
Mike said the new gym has helped the gym spread classes and training to limit contact and the number of people in the same area simultaneously.
Heidi said about 200 athletes trained at MEGA the first summer it opened in McAlester and that grew to about 250 during the following school year.
Last year, 100 female athletes and 25 male athletes competed for MEGA as the total number of athletes who trained at the gym continued to increase.
Heidi said MEGA has continued growing and is expected to reach about 350 athletes — leading to the construction of the expanded gym — but COVID-19 has brought adjustments.
“It’s mostly face masks when we’re coaching, at this point, but we take temperatures at the door, we do hand sanitzer on fingertips to elbows when they walk in,” Heidi said. She added that a parent helps spray equipment often with disinfectant and everything gets cleaned again at the end of the day.
“We’re doing what we can,” Mike said. “And if you don’t know who might be carrying, then I feel like we’re doing all that we can to prevent that.”
He has coached gymnastics for 42 years, while Heidi has coached for 37 years.
Heidi said she initially didn’t want to own a gym, but her passion for coaching gymnastics was cemented in her first year with a blind student.
“I was just so excited that she got it from me speaking it and from that point, I was hooked,” Heidi said.
Mike competed in gymnastics since he was 6 years old and went on to compete with the club team while attending Texas A&M University.
They started in the Bedford (Texas) school district, and coached in Ohio and Tulsa over the years before Heidi opened a gym in Atoka.
Heidi said several families drove at least one hour to train at the Atoka gym, including around 35 families from McAlester so the gym expanded to McAlester in 2016.
Now, they’re excited to expand the building.
“This facility is really going to help us add a bunch of different programs,” Mike said.
Gymnastics offers a safe climbing environment for pre-K children to learn balance, jump, and learn from instruction, Heidi said.
She said gymnastics also helps children improve and develop flexibility, balance and strength at an early age — in addition to helping children focus on overcoming an obstacle.
Heidi said MEGA also hopes to soon open an obstacle course similar to those seen on American Ninja Warrior for adults and advanced gymnasts.
Contact Adrian O’Hanlon III at firstname.lastname@example.org