New owner closes all-women’s gym

CorrespondentJuly 19, 2013 

— The closing of Chapel Hill’s Women’s Only Workout Club last Sunday marked both the loss of the women’s-only gym and the expansion of the Raleigh-based O2 Fitness.

Women’s Only Workout Club (WOW), which has undergone four management changes over the past 20 years, was sold to O2 Fitness in early June. Neither the building nor the equipment will be used by O2 Fitness, however. Instead, the former members will have the chance to transfer to O2 Fitness’ new Chapel Hill location on Elliot Road.

The acquisition follows O2 Fitness’ May 31 purchase of two Kinetix Health Clubs, one in Carrboro and the one on Elliot Road. It now has 11 locations.

Nancy Luberoff, an on-and-off-again WOW member since 2000, says she and others are mourning the loss of what was a tight-knit community of women.

“I have been incredibly sad, and I think a lot of us are really grieving,” she said.

Luberoff says there were certain conversations she could have in an all-women’s club that she can’t or won’t in a coed gym. That comfort and ability to talk candidly, she says, helped to build close relationships and a feeling of warmth in the gym.

Phyllis Busel, a member for 20 years, agrees.

“I always enjoyed the fact that WOW was an all-women’s club,” said Busel. “I don’t think one feels as much intimidation or discomfort due to age or size as one might in a coed gym.”

Some former members are also concerned about the loss of the gym’s classes and teachers, who Luberoff said had a lot of freedom and were able to put their own twists on the classes, twists that included interesting music, sing-alongs and lots of personality.

Many of O2 Fitness’ classes are standardized. (The gym uses a program licensed and designed by an international exercise program called Les Mills.)

Shanna Kane, vice president of marketing for O2 Fitness, emphasizes that O2 is trying to ease the transition for former WOW members. She says that the new O2 facility on Elliot Road will feature several classes that were previously available at WOW. The club will also increase and strengthen its yoga, Pilates, and Zumba offerings in an effort to match the range of class options to which WOW members were accustomed.

“The new O2 Fitness on Elliot is a coed gym, so former WOW members did lose access to a women’s-only facility,” Kane said. “But we didn’t want them to lose the classes that they had grown fond of.”

Kane said O2 Fitness is honoring transferred members’ existing membership rates and does not have any rate increases scheduled. She said she did not have information and could not discuss instructor pay.

“Most everything will stay the same for former members of the two Kinetix Health Clubs and WOW,” she said. “Except they’ll have access to better facilities.”

The two Kinetix clubs were renovated after O2 Fitness took over in early June. Turf was put in, lounges were revamped, the walls were painted, more classes were added, and Wi-Fi was made available.

Another benefit the new members of O2 Fitness can count on, Kane said, is not having to worry their gym will suddenly be sold or closed.

“We are the largest privately-owned fitness operator in North Carolina, and we’ve never closed a location,” she said. “I think these members, many of whom have experienced a number of changes in ownership, will really appreciate the stability we can offer.”

While former members of Kinetix have been adjusting to O2’s facilities for a few weeks now, former WOW members had their first chance to workout at the club this past Monday.

 

Nelson: aan2118@columbia.edu

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