By MARGARET GILLERMAN
The Bon Secours Wellness Arena in Greenville, S.C., attracts the same top acts as other arenas: Tim McGraw and Faith Hill, Journey and Sesame Street Live. It's also home to the Greenville Swamp Rabbits pro hockey team.
But unlike other arenas, the Bon Secours Wellness Arena is named for a Catholic health system, the Bon Secours St. Francis Health System in Greenville. System Chief Executive Craig McCoy says Bon Secours uses its connections with the arena to provide another venue for health and wellness services and to amplify its wellness initiatives in the community. Healthy food options, fitness activities and programs with Bon Secours doctors, nurses and dietitians are all offered at the arena and are a reason locals affectionately call the arena "The Well."
Mothers work out at the Bon Secours Wellness Arena in Greenville, S.C., within sight of their stroller-bound babies.
"The Sisters of Bon Secours wanted 'wellness' to be in the name of the arena and wanted the arena to be a center for bringing health and wellness education to the community," says Katie Phillips, the community engagement representative for Bon Secours.
The arena is owned and operated by the Greenville Arena District. Bon Secours St. Francis Health System holds naming rights for 10 years. Since the name change at the arena went into effect Oct. 1, 2013, Bon Secours has introduced a host of free health initiatives there. It extends its health and wellness promotions using social media. The Bon Secours Wellness Arena Facebook page has more than 42,000 "likes." In April, arena officials learned The Well would be the site of early rounds of the NCAA Division 1 men's basketball tournament in 2020, which will give the venue and Bon Secours national exposure.
Bon Secours' programs bring amateur athletes and fitness buffs to the facility during its off-peak hours. "Well Walkers," one of the most popular programs, especially in extreme summer and winter weather, opens the arena concourse to walkers or runners, from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays. About 1,000 people have participated since the program began over two years ago, with about 80 people at each session. "It's climate-controlled, safe and well-lit," Phillips says of the arena concourse.
Periodically, the health system schedules "Walk with a Doc" to coincide with the Well Walkers sessions. The program allows for multitasking — walkers get advice from medical experts and answers to general health questions as they exercise. Twice a month, mothers are invited to an hour workout with their babies; some of the exercises incorporate strollers as exercise enhancers of sorts. And each month, a registered dietitian speaks on a different topic. Recent talks have included tips for summer slim downs, healthy seasonal eating and dealing with the heat by eating lighter meals and staying hydrated.
Bon Secours hosts health screenings at the venue. As Catholic Health World went to press in late July, the health system sponsored a senior health expo that it expected to draw up to 300 visitors.
Last year, Bon Secours partnered with LiveWell Greenville, a nonprofit coalition in Greenville County whose tagline is "Making the healthy choice the easy choice." Together, the organizations have introduced healthier menu options at The Well's concession stands, its Stella Lounge restaurant and in its private suites.
Kale or fries with that?
"Instead of chips, you can have apple slices," Phillips says. "You can still have hot dogs, but maybe choose water instead of soda. All things in moderation. It's all about making healthy choices."
The healthy menu items are set off on menus with the Bon Secours "BeWell" blue avatar with a fleur-de-lis and LiveWell Greenville's green circle with a check mark.
Healthy food choices include lean cut pork tenderloin medallions in guava barbecue sauce with a watermelon-veggie salad; grilled chicken breast sandwich with cilantro yogurt sauce, lettuce and tomatoes; grilled shrimp, goat cheese and kale salad; grilled salmon and bok choy; fresh fruit yogurt parfait; and a kids' pack with grilled chicken, fruit and carrots. The menu items meet healthful criteria for calories, fat, saturated fat, sodium and fiber.
Luke Clevenger, a chef for Centerplate, a food service and catering corporation, created the menus to meet LiveWell Greenville's dietary recommendations, says Sally Wills, LiveWell Greenville's executive director.
Wills says that one reason for bringing in nutritious foods is statistics showing that two-thirds of adults in Greenville County and 40 percent of youths qualify as overweight or obese. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, eating meals away from home is associated with a higher body weight, and food served at sports and music venues is a particular concern because there's a captive audience.
Phillips and Wills both acknowledge that not every sports enthusiast or concert goer will want to give up traditional arena concession fare.
"Do we recognize that there are times nachos have a place in your life? Yes," says Wills. "But there are also times to make a healthier choice. We want to make the healthier choice just as easy, and customers at the arena are taking the healthy choice."
Wills hopes the arena will enjoy the same success that the Greenville area water parks have had at introducing healthy food options. At the county's water parks, LiveWell has tracked a 200 percent increase in people choosing healthy food since the program started four years ago, Wills says. Although not all the food choices were new, menu boards now draw attention to the healthier choices, she says.
Greenville schools also have moved from highly processed food to scratch-made food that's high in produce, low fat, protein with a higher nutritional value and lower sugar, she says.
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