Tumbling gym on Fishtown/Kensington border is neighborhood oasis

MORGAN ZALOT / DAILY NEWS STAFF Fernando Jones helps Mason, 2, do a backward handstand tumble at a toddler tumbling class at Fusion Tumbling & Fitness.
MORGAN ZALOT / DAILY NEWS STAFF Fernando Jones helps Mason, 2, do a backward handstand tumble at a toddler tumbling class at Fusion Tumbling & Fitness.
Posted: May 15, 2014

FROM THE harsh winter, Lisa Conway and Chris Rovner, both mothers of 2-year-old boys, know just how rambunctious toddlers can get when they're stuck in the house.

So for the two moms raising kids in Port Richmond's Olde Richmond section and Northern Liberties, respectively, it was a godsend when Fusion Tumbling & Fitness opened at Front and Norris streets in February.

"It was the perfect timing, because the weather was not nice," Conway, 32, said on a recent Sunday morning as she watched her flaxen-haired son, Mason, tumble with five other kids from surrounding neighborhoods as part of a weekly tiny-tots tumbling class.

"It's more of a confidence-building activity, too."

Both Conway and Rovner heard about Fusion, run by Temple University grad Fernando Jones, 26, on the spacious, sun-soaked second floor of an old warehouse, through social media. In an area where the moms say playgrounds are pretty much the only place to take kids to spend some energy, the tumbling and floor-gymnastics gym is an oasis.

"It's nice to be able to sit for a little bit and let them run around," Rovner said, grinning as she watched her son, Eli, a shy, chubby-cheeked little boy, dart gleefully around the blue gymnastics mat. "It's nice to have something scheduled to get out of the house."

Jones, who is in his fourth season as a cheerleader with the Philadelphia Soul and has taught gymnastics and cheerleading for 10 years, saw a need in the community for a different kind of gym and decided to open Fusion.

"There was no place in the city for kids to learn gymnastics and tumbling," said Jones, of East Oak Lane. He added that the few city rec centers that do offer tumbling are not central to areas of North Philadelphia, Kensington and Northern Liberties.

"It's nice to come in here every day and play with kids," Jones said. He offers several other classes at the space and rents it out for adult Zumba classes.

Jones, who majored in political science at Temple, said gymnastics is his passion.

"It's a really big deal for me. Gymnastics in high school made me who I am today," he said.

He plans to continue to grow Fusion and expand its offerings, which also include cheerleading and adult tumbling classes.

"The first couple months have been finding out what works and what doesn't," he said, adding that he hopes to run summer camps there for cheerleading and tumbling.

That's music to Conway's and little Mason's ears.

"I didn't think to look in our own neighborhood [for this]," Conway said.

Her son enjoys his weekly tumbling classes. "This morning, he was like, 'Yeah!' " when asked if he was ready for tumbling, she said. "We got a fist pump."

For more information about classes and events, visit FusionPhilly.com.

On Twitter: @morganzalot

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