With the closure of Evanston LA Fitness in mid-April and the changes that occurred during the COVID-19 pandemic, there has been a change in the climate of Evanston Health.
The city’s economic development manager, Paul Zalmezak, who spoke with the LA Fitness Club’s corporate office when the closure was announced, said the company made the decision based on low sales of new memberships and the high cost of doing business in Evanston. . He said the space vacated by the club is about 58,000 square feet and costs the club more than $ 2 million to rent each year. With a drop in membership from about 5,000 to 3,500, the club was unable to cover its expenses.
“There have been interesting community efforts to get the company to keep Evanston’s location open,” Zalemezak said. “Alderman [Clare] Kelly spoke to LA Fitness’s corporate office, asking them what it would take. The corporation has decided not to do so. “
Zalmezak said the loss of the health club was significant for many living in downtown Evanston. Silver Sneakers, a training program for seniors paid for by Medicare, was hosted at Evanston by LA Fitness. “We reached out to other gyms [about hosting the program]but some are too small to accept Silver Sneakers and are not available at the Evanston Athletic Club. ”
Will Roberts, customer service manager at the Evanston Athletic Club, 1723 Benson Ave., said the number of members was increasing. “We’ve had a lot of growth lately because of the shutdown of LA Fitness,” Roberts said. “Our business as a whole has grown by about 50% in terms of traffic, membership sales, inquiries.”
Izzy Liebman, owner of TruFit, a private personal training studio at 610 Davis St. at the Evanston Center, said some of the coaches who lost their jobs at LA Fitness came to work for TruFit and that the studio’s offerings have changed in a number of ways.
“Everyone went online, trained at Zoom, and that seems to be the case for now. And now we have clients who live in different countries. That will remain, “Liebman said. “We also found that we don’t have to work shifts that we worked before and after [9-5] working hours. It wasn’t a healthy way to run my business, but my clients started working from home and it could take an hour. ”
Liebman said that for trainees, the new model after COVID allows for a healthier workout: “Trainers are much better at TruFit than at LA Fitness, trainers can set their own hours and pace, they train the way they want to. good and make more money. “
Liebman said TruFit has not only overcome the pandemic and seen positive changes in its business model, but will open a new TruFit concept, TruFit Wellness Studios, right on Davis Street. The new venue will include physiotherapy and massage, as well as food seminars and demonstrations.
However, despite the positive changes, Liebman said he is aware that running a fitness business in downtown Evanston comes with challenges. “If I have a client who also wants to have an affordable gym membership, the picks are super slim,” she said. “I want the city to make it easier to run one here.
“Property taxes are very high and this makes it very difficult to make ends meet and pay employees what they cost and keep services accessible. It saddens me to see studios and gyms close. There is no shortage of people who want to feel better and more mobile. ”
Becky Slenk, CEO of McGaw YMCA, said they have many new members who were previously members of LA Fitness.
Speaking about the experience of overcoming the pandemic, she said it helped her team focus on the importance of community and “defining health beyond traditional fitness indicators”. Slenk said Y has embraced the need to support McGaw members during the pandemic and the ongoing changes that are part of it.
“McGowe is much more than just a gym,” she said. “We are not just a place, but a goal, driven by the strengthening of our community in Evanston and serving as a place of belonging for all. The pandemic brought to light the importance of community and the definition of health beyond traditional indicators of physical fitness. “