New exercise facility in Conway opens in honor of past officers

By Tammy Keith Published November 3, 2013 at 12:00 a.m.
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PHOTO BY: Rusty Hubbard

From the left, Maj. John Randall, John Blasioli and Lt. Durwin Lasker stand in the new Hans J. Fifer Exercise Facility at Unit 2 of the Faulkner County Detention Center in Conway. Randall, Lasker and Lt. Todd Mize talked about how to honor Fifer, who died during training, and they came up with the idea of a workout area. Blasioli, Fifer’s father-in-law, raised the money for all of the equipment. A photo of Fifer hangs prominently in the space.

After Deputy Hans Fifer of the Faulkner County Sheriff’s Office died in April of a heart-related problem, some of his comrades were talking about a way to honor him and other fallen officers.

“We talked about a gym that everybody could use,” Lt. Todd Mize said. “It just snowballed.”

Mize, Sgt. John Randall and Lt. Durwin Lasker took their idea to Sheriff Andy Shock, who supported it.

The Hans J. Fifer Exercise Facility opened Monday in Unit 2 of the Faulkner County Detention Center in Conway.

Previously, “there was no place whatsoever,” Shock said. “We had a long hallway that was unused, and it was the perfect place for it because it has fairly easy access from the outside of the building for employees.”

A former conference room and a wide hallway were transformed into the gym, with all the work completed with private donations and inmate labor.

Fifer’s father-in-law, John Blasioli of Mayflower, was the driving force behind the donations. Fifer was married for almost 10 years to Sherah, the daughter of Blasioli and his wife, Annita.

“He was like a son to us,” Blasioli said. He described Fifer as “outgoing, honest. He was loyal, a family man, very well-liked.”

Lasker said he went into the Conway Regional Health and Fitness Center one day, and the first person he saw was Blasioli, who works there and asked Lasker what he was doing.

“I said, ‘I’m over here trying to get some equipment for the officers because of the tragic incident with Hans,’” Lasker said.

“We want to make sure we can get a workout area and workout equipment for the guys because a lot can’t afford to go to the fitness center.”

Lasker said it was “almost like a light bulb came on over [Blasioli’s] head, and he teared up. He gave me a hug and said, ‘Brother, if you allow me to help you, I promise you I will not disappoint you.’ John pretty much ran with it. Everything up here is his vision.”

Blasioli said he got commitments of $12,500 in about a day, and he was able to buy new and used workout equipment.

“It’s a top-notch facility,” Blasioli said. “Not only did we do the floors right; we did the walls right.”

The color scheme includes gray and black at the top of the walls with a royal-blue stripe.

Rance Bryant, director of the Conway Regional Health and Fitness Center, helped Blasioli.

“John would just ask me questions daily, and I’d give suggestions or advice,” Bryant said. “John and I both worked with the reps to get good prices or discounts.”

Blasioli said the facility, from paint to equipment, would retail for about $30,000.

Blasioli brought Bryant to the facility Tuesday for the first time.

“It has everything that they need,” Bryant said. “This is a nice setup.”

The equipment includes several stationary bicycles, free weights, benches, kettle balls, tension bands, a treadmill, a stair climber and more.

Blasioli said enough equipment was obtained that a third phase will be completed using the next section of hallway.

Mize, who oversees the criminal-investigation division, said, “I’ve been with this department about 18 years, and I always thought it would be a good idea, that it would be handy to have a place to go work out and get in better shape. It’s kind of private. … I think it’s fantastic.”

Randall said the location is perfect because it’s right outside a training classroom.

Officers can take classes and work out without leaving the building, he said.

Sgt. Chris Riedmueller, who works at Unit 2, said he will use the exercise facility.

“It’s a tremendous asset to the department,” he said. “I’ve used gyms; I’ve worked out at home. I’ve done a little bit of everything. It will be nice to have the ability to do this on-site.”

Randall said the point is not so much saving money as it is convenience.

“Most law enforcement officers, we’re always on the go,” he said. “Usually, we can get a discounted rate [for exercise facilities], but even on our days off, we’re in court or in training, or spending time with family and friends trying to catch up.”

Lasker said Fifer was “a SWAT brother.”

Fifer, who also sold real estate and was a former Cabot police officer, joined the Faulkner County Sheriff’s Office in January.

“He was one of those people, when you’re around him, if you’re having a bad day, you totally forgot about it when you started talking to him,” Lasker said. “He had a personality that made you feel like everything was going to be OK. He just had that way about him — just an all-around great guy, always smiling.

“You can hear in my voice, I miss him.”

Mize said the Hans J. Fifer Exercise Facility is more than a place to build muscle.

“It builds a lot of camaraderie,” Mize said.

“I think it’s awesome, just awesome. It’s a positive way to honor Hans.”

Senior writer Tammy Keith can be reached at (501) 327-0370 or tkeith@arkansasonline.com.

Niche Publications Senior Writer Tammy Keith can be reached at 501-327-0370 or tkeith@arkansasonline.com.

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