Arizona Sunrays new building

Julie and Dan Witenstein observe the construction of the new location for their Arizona Sunrays Gymnastics and Dance Center. The facility will feature in-floor landing surfaces meant to minimize stress on the body.

The shelves that once held trophies and medals at the old Arizona Sunrays Gymnastics and Dance Center are empty now.

While that makes Sunrays co-owner Julie Witenstein a little sad, she’s looking forward to the organization’s next chapter.

In the next few weeks, the Arizona Sunrays’ base of operations moves to a newly constructed 34,000-square-foot building. The new facility features five in-floor trampolines, three sound-proofed dance studios, new equipment, expanded viewing areas, a cafe and even a dedicated space for the preschool.

The new building allows the various components of the Sunrays organization, which was founded by Julie and Dan Witenstein in 1990, to be under one roof.

And what a roof it is. Natural light streams in through floor-to-ceiling windows and tubular skylights. Julie said it’s so much light, in fact, that the automated ceiling LEDs may not come on until sunset on some days.

“Our dance rooms’ ceilings are three times as high as what we have now, and the brightness is tremendous,” Julie said. “Our dancers are going to be leaping higher and have fantastic length and lines in their dance.

“We know the height and the brightness inspires creativity and a feeling of freedom.”

Cameras line the building’s interior and exterior, which, along with the open-floor plan, provide increased security and viewing for parents. Likewise, the doors have cameras and require visitors to be buzzed in.

“There won’t be any unsafe areas,” Dan said. “Parents will be able to see on screens, as well as be able to observe directly.”

The safety concerns extend even to the flooring and surfaces of the new building, which feature various combinations of thick foam pads, air spaces and springs, all designed to provide cushioning for high-impact movements and landings.

The 75-foot-long Tumbl Trak (double the length of the one in the old facility) is specifically engineered to reduce stress on body parts.

“If we’d had landing surfaces like this when I was young, maybe my knees wouldn’t be so bad,” said Dan, a former gymnast himself.

Despite all the changes, Julie is sure that the Sunrays’ family feeling will remain, and that extends to the much larger office space, which allows for childcare for staff, a private shower, lockers, and a lounge room with couch and TV.

“That’s really why I need such a big office, because I have to fit two portable cribs in,” said Julie. “When the staff babies are small, we get to cuddle with them.”

The new facility was designed by Holly Street Studio Architects, which is run by Michael Jacobs and Diane Reicher Jacobs. The Witensteins know the Jacobs from their chavurah at Beth El Congregation, where Julie and Dan also teach preschool.

Chasse Building Team has been in charge of constructing the new building, which sits on a four-acre lot at 15801 N. 32nd St. The new facility has a fenced-in courtyard and twice the parking capacity of the former location.

The grand opening of the Sunrays’ new home is slated for Saturday, Sept. 23, with a program of free classes, food samples from the cafe and swag bags for the first 200 attendees.

Then, the day after the grand opening, there’s even more excitement as the Sunrays host five-time Olympic medalist Nastia Liukin, who won Olympic gold for all-around gymnastics in 2008.

Liukin’s appearance will serve as a fundraising event for the Sunrays’ scholarship program. JN

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