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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Sunday, September 19, 2004

Gymnasts searching for new place to train

By Eloise Aguiar
Advertiser Windward O'ahu Writer

KANE'OHE — After eight years of building a successful gymnastics program that is now at the top of its form, the Hawaiian Island Twisters say their future is in doubt.

Jenna Frowein, left, 10, and Samantha Stevens, 9, practice some back flips at the Hawaiian Island Twisters gym in Kane'ohe. More than 300 people — adults to toddlers — who work out at the club's gymnastics center will have to find a new location for their training.

Eugene Tanner • The Honolulu Advertiser

The organization has been asked to move from its present location in 45 days.

The short notice — they must be out by the end of October — has the group scrambling for a new location. Buildings that the group has scouted so far are either too small or too expensive, and organizers say if a site isn't found soon the program could fall apart, dashing the dreams of youngsters who hope to one day compete nationally and in the Olympic Games.

"We put 11 kids on the national team last year," said Joe Rapp, head coach and executive director for the nonprofit organization. "We're about where we really wanted to be. Now we got the door slammed in our face."

More than 300 people — adults to toddlers — train at the club's Kahuhipa Street gym, where the very young learn coordination and the adults keep in shape.

News of the move has some of the students stressed about possibly splitting up and losing their coaches, said 14-year-old Becca Pang, who has trained at the gym for more than three years. And if there is a break in the training, getting back into shape will mean more work, said Pang, who trains four hours a day five to seven days a week, depending on whether she's competing.

How you can help

If you know of training space call 235-4487 or e-mail Hawaiian Island Twisters at info@hawaiianislandtwisters.com.

"The kids are trying to concentrate on training and not letting that stress us out too much," she said. "Outside the gym people get worried."

The property manager informed the club this month and gave little explanation, Rapp said. The building fell into foreclosure after the owner died, and Rapp said that might have something to do with the decision.

"They're having trouble with parking and permitting and that's the only excuse they gave us," he said.

The management company did not return phone calls seeking comment.

The search for a new site is under way, but prospective buildings that are affordable are rare, Rapp said. The club needs 6,000 to 10,000 square feet and can pay $5,000 to $8,000 a month at most. The building must be at least 25 feet high.

Even the cheapest building was too much and one that was within their price range needed $80,000 to $100,000 in repairs, he said.

"It couldn't come at a worse time because the market is so high," he said.

Parents are concerned that if a gym isn't found the program will fall apart, said Susan Horowitz, Pang's mother and secretary for the organization. A gym is necessary to keep everyone together.

"We have the best coaches around," Horowitz said. "There's just no question about it. The way they prepare the kids, you see it nationally."

Horowitz said gymnastics is a big part of many of the children's lives, including her daughter, who competed nationally last year and did well. Pang expects to compete in college and later become a gymnastics coach, Horowitz said. Pang, a Punahou student, has been a gymnast for 12 years and considers the other gymnasts her second family.

"I don't know what we would do if we didn't have the gym," Horowitz said.

"Hopefully it will be a change for the better and we'll get someplace wonderful for the kids. But until that happens we're all very concerned," she said.

Reach Eloise Aguiar at eaguiar@honoluluadvertiser.com or 234-5266.