MARQUETTE, Mich.—Marquette County residents have a new opportunity to enjoy free fitness walking in the Superior Dome, thanks to a collaboration announced today between Northern Michigan University, Marquette General Health System and Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan. The three entities are splitting the $20,000 annual cost associated with required staffing and other support services. Representatives participated in a ribbon cutting this morning at the Superior Dome. The kickoff also included a ceremonial “walk for your health” trek across the field, comments from the sponsoring organizations, blood pressure checks and information stations on nutrition and exercise. “This is another example of Marquette organizations sharing resources to meet the needs of the community,” said NMU President Les Wong. “We are pleased to join in this positive approach to health and wellness in our area.” When the Superior Dome was constructed, the late state Sen. Dominic Jacobetti envisioned free community access and the legislature appropriated operational funding to the facility. With the loss of state support in 2004 and budget-reduction measures at NMU, the university started selling passes at a nominal fee to support the service. “I am certain that late Senator Jacobetti would be pleased to see his vision realized with area residents having free access to walk in the dome,” said Gary Muller, president and CEO of Marquette General Health System. “Many MGHS employees and their families use the facility and this fits nicely with the mission of our sports medicine program.” Patrick Prichard, director of regional sales and operations for BCBSM, said, “We are excited to serve as a partner in this project because it aligns with our mission of improving the health status of Michigan residents and promoting physical activity. Walking is the preferred method of exercise for Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Michigan and through our Walking Works online tracking tool, we support residents in their endeavor to stay healthy. This project at NMU also contributes to that goal.” The sponsoring organizations will assess the program at the end of their one-year financial commitment. Dome walking hours are 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday-Thursday and 6 a.m. to 5 p.m. Fridays, with limited exceptions for special events.