By Scott Scanlon – Refresh Editor
After a few weeks visiting other gyms in my quest to put together a fitness club plan for this year, I returned to the former BAC coed club at the Eastern Hills Mall on Saturday morning, and it was easy sit in the dim spinning room and imagine that little had changed.
Jenna, my favorite spinning instructor, remains at the club in the wake of the LA Fitness purchase of the BAC coed clubs just after Christmas.
As was the case during a typical Saturday morning before the sale, nearly every spinning bike was taken. I recognized a lot of classmates. There were even a few bottles of sanitizer and some old towels, something you don’t see in other LA Fitness clubs.
Outside the spinning room, however – as well as about a half-mile north at the LA Fitness club on the same side of Transit Road – things were different:
- Far more desolate at the old BAC were the large fitness room, second-floor Cybex equipment space and first-level cardio machine floor.
- Meanwhile, my girlfriend, Karen, was up Transit in the Walmart Plaza, at the club LA Fitness opened early last year, before the chain bought the BAC coed clubs. The basketball court was closed (I’ve been told a sprinkler system mishap buckled some of the flooring). The swimming pool also was closed repairs. And it was so crowded that some club members had to surrender the idea of working out on their preferred cardio equipment.
- I didn’t hear how things went at the BAC for Women Evans branch a couple miles west, off Sheridan Drive, but I’ve been told classes there have been crammed on weekends and parking outside has been unbearable.
Meanwhile, I also imagine that many of the seniors who fled LA Fitness because the chain won’t accept Medicare Advantage Plans continued to get used to life at other clubs, including the YMCA Buffalo Niagara and Jewish Community Center branches.
Members of the BAC coed clubs who still had time coming on their payment plans had until Friday to decide whether to move to another gym or be locked into LA Fitness.
You can read how I decided to handle the change here.
After working out at the LA Fitness Eastern Hills Mall location, I drove north to Hive: The Lifespan Center and plunked down $88 for a month-long package that will include four one-on-one personal training sessions, and unlimited classes that include semi-private personal training sessions. Senior Fitness Editor Tom Frost said the club would credit me – and anyone else – a prorated discount if they have money on the table with LA Fitness, if they switch to Hive. It’s one of several discounts fitness clubs have been offering to former BAC coed members.
Meanwhile, folks continued to speculate whether LA Fitness will close some of its former BAC coed branches. Time will tell.
The fitness sales manager in the Walmart Plaza club in Clarence, as well as others in a position to know, have told me and Eastern Hills branch staffers that the site will continue to remain open as long as there is a demand for its services.
On its website, LA Fitness says group fitness classes are no longer offered at the Boulevard Mall club and Business First reported last spring that the West Coast chain had signed a lease to open a club near the mall in the former Circuit City at Niagara Falls Boulevard and Sheridan Drive. Some members who tend to exercise at the club tell me they’ve been told by staff a move is imminent.
I stopped at the former Circuit City site a couple of weeks ago. Brown paper covers the windows, suggesting something may be in the works.
LA Fitness has added to the mystery by not returning messages and phone calls left at the corporate office by two reporters at The News.
So things are messy in the aftermath of the sale – as change often is – and members at LA Fitness, the BAC for Women and other clubs look to roll with them in the turbulent WNY fitness scene.
It will pay to remember that this is a buyer’s market, especially if you haven’t settled on a gym.
For those who have, it’s time to look at the next few months as the opportunity to make new friends in the exercise spot where you have landed and focus on the real reason to be there in the first place: to get, and stay, healthy.