SALT LAKE CITY — Some Utahns will be making a transition to new workout facilities after one of the nation’s largest health club chains shutters its Utah operations.
Citing financial troubles brought on by the coronavirus outbreak, California-based 24 Hour Fitness this week filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in order to restructure and in the process will shut down over 130 of its 430 health clubs located across the United States.
Included in the closures will be all four of its Utah locations in Murray, Taylorsville, Salt Lake City and Sandy.
The announcement was made on Monday by CEO Tony Ueber in a letter to local members.
“When we closed our clubs back in March in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, I had no idea how long we’d be separated from you, our members. Now, after much consideration, we’ve made the difficult decision to close some of our clubs, including all of our Utah locations,” he said in the letter.
“We are committed to your health and happiness, and so we have partnered with VASA Fitness to help you stay true to your goals. Your membership and any personal training sessions have been transferred to VASA Fitness, a supportive and inclusive network of gyms that is well equipped to provide you with dedicated personal trainers, exciting studio classes and all you need to keep fit.”
Starting Wednesday, all 24 Hour Fitness members will be allowed to transition to the VASA location nearest to their former workout facility, said VASA Fitness chief brand and marketing officer Mindi Bridges.
“So we have a Van Winkle location that we’re bringing members into, our Brickyard location, Taylorsville and Sandy,” she said, adding that the membership prices will not increase and the new members will be automatically transferred to a VASA membership.
Bridges said the gym is not concerned about its ability to maintain safety with the increase in member volume to its existing clubs.
“I’m really proud of the way that even prior to the 24 Hour partnership, that VASAs has reopened clubs and set the business up to run in a way that keeps our members safe and healthy,” she said. The company launched a new mobile app a few weeks ago to allow members to book time to visit the facility of their choice for a workout, but limits attendance to prevent overcrowding at any given time.
“We repurposed or built functionality into our app where members book gym time, so they book it by the hour for every hour that we’re open,” she explained. “Then we have capacities built in based on federal and local guidelines, how much space each person needs to have within the square footage that we have in each of our gyms and our also our group fitness rooms.”
Thus far, VASA locations in Utah have operated with reduced hours and reduced staffing as the company ramps up usage based on member attendance and local health directives. Bridges said that as more people venture out as they feel more comfortable, VASA will expand its operations and add staffing as needed to operate in a safe manner.
“We have a whole plan built out for for getting our hours back to normal,” she said. “So increasing our gym hours, as well as continuing to staff up as the demand increases.”
So we have a Van Winkle location that we’re bringing members into, our Brickyard location, Taylorsville and Sandy.
–VASA Fitness chief brand and marketing officer Mindi Bridges
She noted that there is no set timeline for full reopening, but the company will monitor usage and make adjustments as necessary.
“We opened with phase one, which was only cardio functional and strength equipment and free weights open — so just kind of the open floor area of our gym,” she said. “We moved into phase two in Utah where we opened our group fitness classes, but only at 50% capacity and we’re still in that phase.”
For the time being, some amenities remain closed — such as basketball and racquetball courts — or at limited use, like swimming pools that only allow one person per lane in the pool. Additionally, the company is keeping close tabs on public health recommendations to ensure ongoing safety at their facilities.
“We are in contact daily with the local health department, so we have field leadership on the ground in every one of our markets that communicate regularly with local officials and health departments to make sure that we have the latest guidelines and that we’re following them,” Bridges said. “And that we also know when we can increase capacity.”