CA proposing more work on gym

$1.5 million in upgrades to Athletic Club is part of effort to fend off new rival

September 12, 2004|By Laura Cadiz | Laura Cadiz,SUN STAFF

The Columbia Association is proposing to spend $1.5 million on upgrades to the Athletic Club as part of a stream of sport and fitness improvements to fend off a competing gym.

That money would be in addition to $2.7 million the Columbia Association board has dedicated to improving other facilities that will contend with the proposed Life Time Fitness -- the association's first major fitness competitor -- in Columbia's Gateway Commerce Center.

"It would address a number of the competitive advantages of Life Time Fitness," Rob Goldman, the association's vice president for sport and fitness, said of the proposed improvements he presented to the board Thursday night.

The board will likely vote on the matter at its Sept. 23 meeting.

During its budget process this year, the board approved $1.3 million to build a 2,000-square- foot therapy pool that would be heated to 92 to 94 degrees at the Athletic Club. The association wants to spend the additional $1.5 million to build a second floor above the pool.

The second floor would include room for new exercise equipment, a cardio theater with multiple television screens and a larger nursery, Goldman said.

Located in Harper's Choice, the Athletic Club hasn't undergone major work since a tennis wing was added in 1987, Goldman said.

The association board has approved a long list of improvements to try to keep its customers from going to Life Time Fitness, which is scheduled to open off Robert Fulton Drive next year or in early 2006.

The Supreme Sports Club in Owen Brown -- which is CA's nearest competitor to the Life Time site -- became a 24-hour operation last week. It also underwent a number of improvements, including painting the building's exterior, renovating the exterior signs, replacing furniture and adding a plasma television to the lobby. That project cost $355,500 in operating and capital costs.

The board has also approved an additional $1.9 million in capital improvements to the Supreme Sports Club, including doubling the size of the 800- square-foot spinning studio; adding 1,600 square feet to the 2,500-square-foot main exercise area; erecting a new front entrance; adding cardiovascular and resistance strength equipment; and installing a cardio theater with multiple television screens.

The board also approved $368,000 for housekeeping improvements at the Supreme Sports Club, the Columbia Athletic Club, the Columbia Gym and the Columbia Swim Center.

Near the Supreme Sports Club, the Hopewell outdoor pool is scheduled to be converted into a major aquatic center. The association has approved $100,000 to plan the work, which could include amenities such as a spray pad, a covered pavilion with a snack bar, a half-court basketball court, a playground and a new bath house.

Barbara Russell, the board's vice chairwoman who has not favored the pool improvements, said residents have told her that they fear the work will result in a pool that will be too busy to enjoy.

"It's only one pool, one attraction, and it would be overcrowded," she said.

Board member Cabell Greenwood of River Hill said he worried that the association might be dedicating too much capital and resources to three major projects. He said the association might want to work on the Athletic Club after the renovations at the Supreme Sports Club and Hopewell pool are completed, to "give ourselves a little more breathing room."

But Goldman said he believed "there's synergy in doing all pieces of the pie."

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