Since 2012, Owner/Director Charlie Friedman and her dedicated staff have been developing young gymnasts and cultivating community at their current Niles location. As the community at Viking Gymnastics grows larger, once again, so must their home. This September, they will become Viking Gymnastics & Dance as they unveil their additional twenty-two thousand square feet of space that will include more boys’ and girls’ competitive equipment, added recreational equipment, a larger designated tot area, three premier dance studios, and more!
Charlie began her journey with gymnastics at age eight and immediately fell in love with the sport. Once her competitive years came to an end, she was hired by her former high school coach (current Viking Assistant Director Susan Fosco) as a coach and choreographer at Niles North High School. In 2001, Sue asked Charlie to begin a summer off-season program for their high school students. Attendance expanded from Niles North student athletes to siblings, cousins, and friends as well. This was the start of what, very organically, developed into Viking Gymnastics.
“The first Viking camp had seven students, many of which are current employees” Charlie recalls, “and then it just multiplied over the years.” As attendance grew, so did the Viking Gymnastics program. In 2008, Charlie left her full-time teaching position with CPS to focus on her club, which then officially became Viking Gymnastics. It quickly became clear that the Viking family would need a full-time facility to call home.
Viking opened its doors at their current location in September 2012, and quickly became the leading gymnastics facility in Niles and the surrounding areas. What began as a summer program to keep high school students in peak condition rapidly became the place families wanted to be. The Viking staff attributes their success to their mission. Even with exponential growth of the gymnastics program, Charlie and the rest of the team at Viking work diligently to provide quality instruction in a welcoming, friendly environment.
The expanded space includes a second foam pit with two vaults, a bar, an in-ground tumble trak and a tumbling strip. There are additional in-ground trampolines and a variety of equipment that will enable Viking to increase the offerings of their classes. While they have always had fun equipment that is the perfect size for younger gymnasts; the new space dedicated to tots with their own in-ground trampoline, ropes, tumble trak and other equipment has everyone excited. The boys’ area has also received an overhaul; with the added equipment Viking is able to offer a competitive boys USAG program that they have been wanting to for years. There are also additional party rooms and space for special events, which will accommodate more frequent birthday parties and Kids Night Out activities.
In addition to the new gymnastics equipment and amenities, Viking is proud to bring their dance program to life under Dance Director Lynn Bobzin. Beginning a dance program has always been part of Viking’s vision. The three new, state-of-the-art dance studios are fully-equipped with professional stage flooring, track performance lighting, double wall-mounted ballet barres (to accommodate dancers of all heights and ability levels), and seating for parents and class observers. The tot and combination classes give young dancers the opportunity to explore the art while their genre-specific and instructional programs offer a variety of classes for beginning through advanced dancers.
Lynn and the Viking dance instructors aim to deliver the wide-range of benefits that dance offers. Lynn feels “the benefits of dance are so many. There’s something that happens to people when they connect with movement. I think it’s good for kids to get this energy out through their bodies; to get to learn about their bodies and anatomy too.”
Viking’s expanded gymnastics and dance programs are right around the corner! The excitement is building as it gets closer to the construction being completed. “We know our community and family here have grown with us and made us who we are. As our facility and community expands, so do our hearts.” Charlie says. Lynn adds, “There’s a special formula at work here. There’s something that feels like home about this place for a lot of people.” Charlie and the rest of the Viking staff look forward to sharing the new space with their extended family in just a few weeks!
The next session of classes will begin September 5th. If construction continues ahead of schedule, they are planning to host a dance specific open house event where students can preview the new space and get a taste of the class offerings.