Gym to open downtown

Published 12:00 am Thursday, March 24, 2005

Flexing its revitalization muscle, Suffolk will be adding a private fitness center to the growing number of new businesses downtown.

Life Fitness will be opening in the 100 block of North Main Street by summer’s end, said Robert Howard, the Virginia Beach real estate investor opening the gym. A former professional trainer, Howard is in the process of moving to Suffolk.

Because of ongoing negotiations, neither the city nor the Howard would identify the location.

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The facility will be equipped with approximately $100,000 in topnotch fitness equipment, including treadmills, exercise bicycles and weight machines, Howard said.

Life Fitness will have the equipment and expertise to serve all levels of customers, from bodybuilders to individuals wanting to improve their health.

&uot;But we don’t want to be known as a hardcore gym,&uot; said Howard. &uot;This is going to be a gym where everyone can come and be comfortable.

&uot;We are going to be a place where people can come to get fit and improve their lives.&uot;

Members will be able to do more than work out at Life Fitness, Howard said. He also plans to include a juice bar, tanning beds and health food shop in the facility.

Monthly membership will be comparable to those at other Hampton Roads health clubs, approximately $50 monthly, Howard said.

The gym would be fully staffed during the day, with professionals available to answer questions and teach new members to safely use the equipment. But members will also receive door cards that will allow them access to the building 24 hours a day.

Life Fitness is going to be a great addition to Suffolk, said Elizabeth L. McCoury, the city’s downtown development coordinator.

&uot;It’s going to be very successful,&uot; she said. &uot;Downtown professionals have a limited time for lunch.

&uot;It will be great for them to be able to walk down to the club, work out for 30 minutes and grab a smoothie or salad on the way back to the office.&uot;

Howard expects to invest approximately $400,000 in renovations to the adjacent two-story storefronts that will house Life Fitness.

Initially, Howard was just planning to open a small gym where he and several friends could exercise regularly. But the idea seemed to take off among local residents, prompting him to turn it into a business.

&uot;It’s exploded and grown to a bigger level,&uot; Howard said. &uot;I’m hoping this is going to be something Suffolk needs, something that will help people get in shape, mentally, physically and emotionally.&uot;