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How long before you cross the finish line?

The next time you’re at Tom Bass Park, the sprawling green space just outside of Pearland, you can test your Ninja Warrior skills on the park’s new Challenge Course. The course, which was installed in June, is already a popular destination for runners, families and those looking to try their hand at obstacles such as a hanging traverse course, a belly-crawl and a 40-yard dash.

On the Monday before Independence Day, the course was packed with little kids and adults alike, taking turns sharing the equipment. Santa Fe, Texas, resident Sheila Thornton-Wright was there with her four children. Her kids and another family were competing on the course for time.

“My kids are all big fans of American Ninja Warrior, and they’re all in martial arts, so we came to check it out,” she said. “We read about it on Facebook.” She stood by with an iPhone to time each kid’s run. The facility also has a built-in timer.

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Chambers Washington, park superintendent, said the course was the result of Harris County Commissioner Rodney Ellis’s commitment to physical fitness. Ellis has previously been involved in other Houston fitness activities, such as the Tour de Houston. He’s also advocated for a number of capital improvement projects in Precinct One parks.

The idea for the Challenge Course was first floated two years ago when Total Recreation, which sells playground and fitness equipment, approached the park with the idea. At the time, only two Challenge Courses existed in the US, one in Florida and one in North Carolina. The North Carolina course, the first one in the country, was a joint project between the Carolina Panthers and GameTime, manufacturers of the equipment.

Tom Bass Park’s Challenge Course is the first of its kind in Texas.

“This type of playground encourages physical activity. We even have personal trainers who come out here to use it,” Washington said, comparing the course to more passive playground elements like swings and merry-go-rounds. “We hope it encourages people to get out more.”

Judging by the crowd on Monday, it seems to be working. The park plans to install a second course in summer 2018.

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