All Rights Reserved
Copyright 2017 CMG Corporate Services, Inc. on behalf of itself and the Newspapers Mar 13, 2017
Palm Beach Daily News
A new recreation center in Palm Beach likely won't have an impact on local pilates and yoga studios, but it could affect the island's only fitness center open to the general public.
As part of its proposal to build a new recreation center, the town includes a 1,800-square-foot fitness center with 15 to 18 machines. Revenue from the sale of passes to the fitness offering is supposed to help keep the center economically viable.
Craig Campbell owns Palm Beach Fitness, a 2,000-square-foot gym at 165 Chilean Ave. near Town Hall. Excluding boutique barre, yoga and pilates studios, it's the only gym on the island not part of a private club or hotel. Campbell said he's "kind of indifferent" to the idea of a new gym in town, but doesn't think municipalities should try to operate fitness centers like businesses.
"I think it's better handled by private people than governments getting involved," he said. "I think if the market needed another fitness center on the island then we'd have one."
Many residents agree with Campbell.
They have argued at several meetings that adding a new fitness center will hurt other island fitness businesses.
"What affect will a subsidized facility have on existing providers in town who themselves either own the parcels, pay taxes, pay rent ... in addition to all of the costs associated with running a business?" resident Anita Seltzer asked at a Recreation Advisory Commission meeting this month.
Others have raised similar concerns over the past several months.
"If we add a fitness center and all of these classes, we could hurt current Palm Beach businesses ..." Councilwoman Julie Araskog has said. "We must study this very carefully or we may run the risk of causing a loss of their profits and perhaps even cause some to close."
"If you have a cheaper gym, people will abandon the gyms that they are members of and they will come to a gym that is less expensive," recreation board member Khooshe Aiken has said. "It will put gyms out of business if people give up one membership and get another."
Recreation Director Beth Zickar has said it's not the town's intention to put anyone out of business.
"Our intention is to enhance services that are being provided on the island," she has said. "We want to supplement services that are already being provided."
Ken Ballard of Ballard, King & Associates, the firm that prepared the business plan for the new center, has said adding a fitness element won't negatively impact the existing market.
"We find across the United States that public facilities and private facilities have a very different market focus," he recently told the recreation board. "In fact, in many cases we've found that the public side of things kind of ultimately feeds the private sector side by getting people introduced to the market. In many cases, people will pick and choose where they go and maybe join certain facilities for certain programs and the recreation center for others."
Ballard also said the recreation center's gym wouldn't be big enough to dominate the market.
"It's a pretty small space in there," he said. "It simply is not large enough to service a massive population in terms of exercise classes or just use of the fitness pieces. I don't see virtually any market impact."
Island biz reaction
Campbell said he's not worried about losing existing customers, but might be worried about gaining new customers if the town "undercuts" his prices.
"I started this business on my own 13 years ago," he said. "For them to come in and have a wad of money handed to them, yeah that sucks. But that's the way it is. Whatever's going to happen is going to happen."
Lauren Donovan owns Studios Etc. on North County Road, which includes Momentum Cycle, Labarre and Pilates. She said the new recreation center could be positive.
"I think that things that are new and provide activity for the community are always positive," she said. "We see our studios as being highly specialized, small boutiques. We don't get too worried or concerned about our clients going elsewhere."
Alyson Limehouse, owner of Sunset Pilates on Sunset Avenue, also isn't threatened by a new recreation center.
"I like the rec center," she said. "It serves a purpose. It's for the good of the community. Everybody should be able to go where they want to go. We live in America. It's a free world."
-- akopf@ pbdailynews.com Twitter: @aleesekopf
Read More of Today's AB Headlines
Subscribe to Our Daily E-Newsletter