KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) - A Knoxville trainer and founder of the nonprofit Beauty Hunters, has been holding free workouts for women at locations around Knoxville, including World's Fair Park, for almost eight years. She announced on April 12, 2019, that her organization had reached an agreement with the city regarding proposed fees to use park space for workouts.
According to Sarah Van Sickle Morrow's Facebook page, the Beauty Hunters Knoxville organization met with city representatives on Friday, April 12, and agreed to pay a one time fee for the fiscal year, instead of the proposed $100 fee each time the group holds one of its free workouts out a city park.
She said, "They see the need and the importance in what we are doing, so they are willing to let us utilize all of the green spaces now in the park as long as we pay a reasonable one-time fee for the fiscal year, just like we do at Victor Ashe Park."
"It's so important we don't put a dollar sign on women's health and women's ability to get fit," Sarah Van Sickle Morrow, founder of Beauty Hunters, said. "Our mission is to instill strength, health and self esteem into women of all ages, shapes, sizes and fitness levels by providing a free boot camp."
Beauty Hunters has been coordinating with different parks and schools around Knoxville for the last eight years. The class held once a week at World's Fair Park is a favorite for many, especially due to its central location.
"I've been looking forward to coming to this location. I work downtown, I live close to downtown, and this is a place that's always been an exciting spot to go to. This is one of our biggest classes," Ashley Walker, a Beauty Hunter participant of five years, said.
On Monday, April 8, WVLT broke the news that Knoxville's Public Building Authority (PBA) wanted the group to pay $100 to use World's Fair Park space.
The city said the rules for reserving the amphitheater have always been in place, but they need to do better about enforcing it across the board.
They have a "general" rule, though not in writing, that says that 50 or more people at a planned gathering is considered an event, which is how they see Beauty Hunters.
"We just kind of filter into whatever part of the park isn't being used. We don't come assuming we're going to get a certain space, and so this year is the only year we've ever had even an ounce of trouble getting into any parks," Morrow said.
PBA manages World's Fair Park for the City. They said a combination of the group's growing size, interest in the amphitheater space from other groups this time of year, and performance lawn improvements are all factors in PBA asking for funds to rent the space.
On Monday, Morrow said paying for the space would not feasible for the nonprofit group since her fitness sessions are free. They accept donations, but not nearly enough to cover the new cost using World's Fair Park.
The city said that in an effort to accommodate the growing demand for space, it must be fair to organizations using the facilities.
"It's just a brutal hit. There's no way we can afford to pay $100 a night. That's $400 a month for the entire outdoor season. That's more than we make in six months of donations," Morrow said.
By Friday, it appeared both parties had come to an agreement.
"We just want to be able to continue to provide this service at the most beautiful park in Knoxville that is literally ingrained in who we are," said Morrow.