Gym closes — blaming City, in part


By Steve Marschke,
News-Ledger Editor

A West Sacramento business that found itself in the unusual position of having to compete with a city-owned facility closed its doors at the end of July.

Said a note on the website for 15th Street Fitness:

“The economy, accompanied by the city of West Sacramento opening a competitive fitness facility inside the (West Sacramento) recreation center, have been too much to overcome. Over the past 9 months, we have worked with 3 groups and had 2 interested buyers.”

But “for the same reasons we are struggling,” the potential buyers or new partners all pulled out, said the website. So the gym closed on July 31.

Patrons work out inside 15th Fitness. The gym is the former location of a succession of neighborhood markets. (News-Ledger file photo/ERIC HARDING)

In 2009, the facility at 109 15th Street went to the City of West Sacramento for help, believing that the busy new city Recreation Center next to River City High School was taking away business. The two sides worked out a special deal that gave members of the private gym reduced rates for an add-on that included use of Rec Center facilities such as the pool. The package was intended to help make membership at 15th Street Fitness more attractive.

But that deal was not enough to keep the private gym afloat.

A few years ago, its owners had bought the site, which included an old building that for decades had been home to a neighborhood market. They spent hundreds of thousands renovating the structure.
Then the city built the Recreation Center – a decision some people feel was wrong.

Tom Farley, a 15th Street Fitness patron, told the News-Ledger:

“I think it was unfair. I can understand a community developing a pool. I think that’s pretty common. But I think it is unfair to compete with a private gym when you can get taxpayers to pay for the equipment and building.”

Farley received a letter from gym CEO Steve Buchanan, offering members the choice of quitting their membership or transferring it and getting a free month at an affiliated gym in Davis. That option is “certainly less convenient,” said Farley.

“I’ll probably continue there,” he added. “I have not gone to the Rec Center because from what I understand, it’s pretty crowded, and I’m not sure if I want to support them with what’s happened.”

Another patron of 15th Street was Joe Goeden, retired city manager. Goeden declined to discuss the public policy issue of the city building a competing recreation center, but he explained why he liked 15th Street Fitness:

“I liked the equipment,” said Goeden. “It was the first thing like it in West Sacramento. What I really liked about it was that it wasn’t all that crowded, at least during the times of day I went there. I thought it was good of the city to try to work something out and be of assistance to them.”

The News-Ledger tried to contact Buchanan and Tammy Hengel, who were co-owners of 15th Street Fitness as of 2009 (although the ownership structure may have changed). Phone calls and an email haven’t yet been returned.

West Sacramento City Councilman Bill Kristoff told the News-Ledger he is still supportive of the council’s decision to build the $16 million Recreation Center, which includes a swimming pool, climbing wall, exercise equipment and exercise classrooms.

“So many people use the gym and facility out at our new high school,” said Kristoff. “I don’t think that’s the reason 15th Street Fitness failed, though. I think (building the Rec Center) was a good move on our part. I think it’s worthwhile.”

copyright News-Ledger 2011

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