Game lighting up Overlook Park

Overlook Park in Manheim Township, PA, is the proud owner of NEOS! The township’s recreation director said, “It's a fun way of keeping Manheim Township healthy and fit … and the adults get into it as much as the kids"

Jim Martin had barely finished working up a good sweat playing the futuristic-looking game in Overlook Park when he got a challenge from another player.

Jim Bohan, chairman of Manheim Township's parks and recreation board, said he and his board members could give Martin and his fellow township commissioners a game.

Martin, who had just done a practice run on a hot day on a new interactive exercise game called NEOS, flashed a smile.

If he had the support of the other commissioners, Martin said, he would be happy to challenge Bohan and other parks officials to a game of NEOS, "disc golf" or any other sport.

"Maybe they can do World Cup soccer," someone suggested.

There would be no official NEOS battle this day, just some good-natured trash talking, as township officials met last week to unveil the newly installed NEOS game.

But there will be plenty of contests among two- and four-member teams as word of the NEOS system gets around, Manheim Township officials hope.

"It's a fun way of keeping Manheim Township healthy and fit … and the adults get into it as much as the kids," said Margie Lewis Earnest, the township's recreation director.

She knew the township had a winner even before NEOS was installed.

"When the guys (workers) were putting it in, they had kids coming up to them and asking them, 'Where do you put the money in?' " she said.

"They had to tell them, you don't put the money in, it's free. And kids and adults both really get a genuine workout when they play."

The new $30,000 NEOS system, which was paid for out of the township's parks fund, was installed in mid-June in Overlook, the 18-acre park between Lititz and Fruitville pikes, at a spot adjoining the park's "Destination Playground."

The game looks like four dark-blue footballs ready for kickoff, with four circular lights on each of the four "footballs," or panels.

The design is perfect for allowing two or four players to compete at the same time.

When the lights buzz and flash, the players try to push the lights faster than their opponents.

According to one description, "NEOS delivers a workout comparable to jogging or playing soccer, raising heart rates by an average of 20 percent.

"That's because, with NEOS, your body is in motion the entire time as you race from one area to another, hitting flashing lights before they disappear."

It's the first system of its kind in Manheim Township and is believed to be one of the first in Lancaster County, township officials said.

Bohan said township park officials try to offer "a variety of amenities that will appeal to all ages, all groups and all types of people.

"This is an electronic-type thing that is very physical, that will get people physically involved and active with it," he said.

"Plus, it's right next to the kiddie park and bocce court" in the park, so it will be just part of a wide range of recreational offerings in Overlook, Bohan said.

Manheim Township staffers heard about NEOS at a municipal conference, thought it would be a good addition to a township park and then got approval from the Overlook Community Foundation and the township commissioners.

If it's successful — and early indications are that it's getting plenty of use — the township could install NEOS in more of its parks.

After his game, Martin said, "You really have to keep moving, and you have to be aware and keep watching it. The lights come on really quickly. But I enjoyed it!"

NEOS is a product of Playworld Inc., based in Lewisburg, Union County, a leading maker of commercial playground equipment.

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