Hard by Interstate 95 like some futuristic spaceship come to eastern Baltimore County, the new Bally's Holiday Health Spa at White Marsh is "just like a billboard," says a company official.
"You can drive by there and go 'wow,' " said David M. Tolmie, vice president of development and operations for Bally's.
At 40,000 square feet, Bally's newest club in the Baltimore metropolitan area is nearly twice the size of its other clubs, and one of its few that aren't part of a shopping center or mall.
Tolmie, who helped select the site, said more than 100,000 cars pass by daily on I-95, enabling the club to tap into a market stretching from eastern Baltimore County to Harford County.
"Part of it is, there can be so many people driving by there on their way to or home from work," Tolmie said. "This makes it convenient for them if they want to join a health club."
Before they began building the $5 million structure, which features stylish neon sculptures and an enormous array of workout equipment, Bally's officials did market research. They were not discouraged by the fact that a Downtown Athletic Club branch at White Marsh Mall failed in 1983, Tolmie said.
"The lack of success of that club does not reflect at all on the location," he said.
Construction began last October and was finished last week. Since last November, Bally's has operated a sales trailer outside the new building.
Bob Magersupp, the manager of the club, said more than 3,200 memberships were sold prior to the grand opening on Friday. "We expect to do a quarter of a million dollars in business our first six hours we're open," he said.
Memberships range in price from $345 for 18 months to $1,700 for a lifetime membership, Magersupp said.
Besides a pool, sauna, indoor track and aerobic room, the club has a battery of weight machines and a full Olympic free weight gym. There's also a ladies-only gym, and a battery of 40 Lifecycles and stair workout machines.
Three television sets stand before the Lifecycles "so they can watch their soap operas, if they want," Magersupp said.
Steve Dwek, who is in charge of marketing for Bally's on the east coast, said the White Marsh facility is only the second of its kind to be built. The other is in Atlanta.
"That's our prototype club," he said. "That has everything we want in a club. It's like, years and years of building these things, and we finally got it right."