Gym crazy?: Competition pumps up in the local health and fitness sector |

Gym crazy?: Competition pumps up in the local health and fitness sector

Lorraine Jewett
Special to The Union

Ed Note: This is the first in a two-part series exploring Nevada County's health and fitness industry. Today: Gyms and health clubs. Next Monday: Finding the right fit in a fitness program.

How many gyms can western Nevada County support?

Several new gyms are betting millions of dollars that there's room for at least one more — theirs.

In addition to its Nevada City site, the South Yuba Club will open a second location in Grass Valley in March after a multi-million dollar renovation.

The managing partner of soon-to-open Training Zone signed an eight-year lease worth more than $1 million and is spending more than $300,000 on new gym equipment.

Anytime Fitness owners invested $500,000 before the club's doors opened five weeks ago. Those newcomers join a half-dozen other gyms where hundreds of people already lift, pump and break a sweat.

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Might Nevada County have reached the saturation point when it comes to gyms? A sampling of local gym owners revealed a variety of answers.

Some gyms offer classes, others don't. Some accept insurance-paid programs such as Silver Sneakers, others don't. Some are open 24/7, others have specific hours.

They all have one thing in common: competition for a share of Nevada County's health and fitness market.


The new South Yuba Club facility — at the site of the former Club Sierra in Grass Valley — will be special, promise co-owners owners Phil and Belinda Carville.

"We're going for a quality that's never been in Nevada County," said Phil, citing a renovation price tag of nearly $5 million. "It's going to be more like a Four Seasons resort than a gym with locker rooms."

"We want to make a deep connection with our customers," added Belinda. "It's going to be a place that's a big part of your life. Like the old 'Cheers' television show, this will be a place where everyone knows your name. It's obvious you're doing something for your physical health, but mental health as well."

When completed, the 27,000-square-foot club will boast a dining area, commercial kitchen and beer and wine bar.

"It will be a venue for events, parties and weddings. It's like a country club with weights," laughed Phil.

Gone are the racquetball courts, replaced with places for yoga, bar exercises, aerobics, spinning, tai chi, child care — and what the Carvilles call "quiet exercise and reflection."

Eventually, they plan to add a jogging path and outdoor training facilities on a one-acre hill next to the building. Existing tennis courts will be refurbished; a barbecue and picnic area will be added. An outdoor swimming pool will complement the existing indoor pool.

For an average of $74 per month, members will be able to visit both the Grass Valley and Nevada City locations. The monthly fee for the Nevada City location will remain at a starting price of $55.

Referring to other less-expensive, local gym options, Phil said, "That's their business model and low-cost profile. We have a different model. If all decisions were based on cost, everyone would drive a Yugo."


Training Zone managing partner Ivan Nyal said his gym will not be a luxurious country club-style gym, nor is it an express 24/7 type of club, nor is it a hard-core, monster club where "people are throwing weights around."

"We are the medium-sized, full-service health club," said Nyal, whose business partner owns another Training Zone in Marysville and decided to help Nyal open one in Grass Valley when the old South Yuba Club space became available in the Pine Creek Center.

Nyal said his gym, scheduled to open by the end of February, will meet a need in the community. He said during his pre-sale sessions, he's met dozens of locals who told him they're not happy with existing options.

"Some people said they felt the South Yuba Club had a monopoly and took advantage of that by inflating prices. We're going to shake it up," said Nyal, whose price range is $25 to $39 per month. "Obviously we're going to take market share from existing clubs, but we're also going to appeal to the moms and dads and professionals who don't belong to a gym because they believe the $60 price point was too expensive."

Nyal said he is adding an outdoor children's play structure outside the 12,500-square-foot gym, plus child care services. He said his market research and 20 years of experience convinced him Training Zone will be successful.

"We looked at the demographics, shopped the competition, and did the spread sheets. The numbers look really strong," concluded Nyal. "We're bringing affordable fitness to the Grass Valley area."


Co-owners Susan Arrabit and Sharon Dunn of Anytime Fitness said their market research and ultimate decision to open their gym was done before they knew Training Zone would become part of their competition.

"Only time will tell whether the county will support this many choices," said Dunn.

The 24/7 gym opened in its 5,000-square-foot storefront location in the Brunswick Basin on Nov. 21.

"We have a motto here, 'No member left behind.' We're ideal for the person who needs a family atmosphere and people to give them a little push here and there," explained Arrabit. "We give everyone a get-started program that includes a one-hour personal training session and a 30-day follow-up plan. If we haven't seen someone in a while, we'll call them and see if we can do something to help them."

For monthly memberships of $34.95 to $47.95, depending on add-ons, members of Anytime Fitness can work out at any of the chain's 3,000 international gyms. Just a few weeks after opening, the Grass Valley Anytime Fitness boasted more than 600 members.

"Most gyms don't have our 'No member left behind' mentality. We like to think we're changing lives one person at a time," said Arrabit.


Steve Matthews, owner of Ironworks Athletic Club, doesn't mince words.

"We have more equipment, the best equipment, and the best personal trainers of anybody else in town," said Matthews, who has a degree in Food Science and Nutrition and is a competitive power lifter.

He said his club has about 500 members, and the average monthly rate is $35. He said he believes the local gym market is saturated, but he's not worried.

"We put in the time and effort to show people how to use the equipment correctly," he said. "We don't just give them a 10-minute introduction and then take their money every month."

The downtown Grass Valley club has about 5,800 square feet, according to Matthews. He added that his clientele is "grassroots."

"They come in, do their thing, and leave. We don't offer classes because they're a waste of time. We don't have a ridiculously high price point. The atmosphere here is laid back and the club is built around my personality. We're old school, with a 21st Century look," said Matthews.


"I am 150 percent convinced there are too many gyms and the market is saturated," said Judi Bannister, owner of Fast and Fit, the women-only gym she opened 14 years ago. "I'm not worried because I have a niche, but I'd be worried if I were opening a new gym right now."

Bannister said her vision was to provide a place for a community of women to work out.

"Some hard-core members work out really hard; others use it as a social thing. Some members have limitations due to their age or recovering from surgery, for example," Bannister explained. "We do a lot of laughing. There is a stereotype of what a gym is and we are definitely not that stereotype. We're unique."

Fast and Fit's 200 members range in age from late teens to the 80s. Dues vary from $40 to $50 per month. As far as her investment in equipment, Bannister didn't want to talk numbers but offered, "We have everything a woman needs to build strength, endurance, and flexibility in an interactive and intimate setting."


In January, Denise and Zack Ray re-opened the gym across from the clubhouse at Alta Sierra Country Club. They reported they now have 235 members, each of whom pays between $25 and $40 per month.

They declined to share their total investment in the gym, but noted remodeling the upstairs to add a yoga studio cost $10,000. More upgrades are planned.

Denise said she believes the local gym market is already inundated, and she's worried new gyms may lure away customers.

"Any gym can be competition. Perhaps some of our younger members might want to go somewhere more social and where there's a singles crowd," predicted Denise. "But we're a small boutique gym catering to Alta Sierra residents. Our members can walk here. They love the convenience of a gym located in the middle of a residential area, and many say they don't want to drive into town to go to a gym."


Whether all the gyms survive may depend on whether people who are not currently members decide to join a gym. That would increase total market share.

Several owners expressed concerns that a cost-cutting gym might move into the area. As has occurred in places such as Sacramento, when gym chains offer predatory pricing at $9.99 per month, existing clubs can't compete and some go out of business.

Whatever the future holds, Nevada County residents have no shortage of places to work off any holiday weight gain.

Lorraine Jewett is a freelance writer who lives in Nevada County. To suggest a business news feature, contact her at


South Yuba Club

555 Searles Ave., Nevada City

130 Berryhill Drive, Grass Valley

Temporary GV Site: 535 E. Main St.

530-470-9100” target=”_blank”>Text”>

Training Zone

Pre-Sale: 736 Taylorville Road, Grass Valley

Gym Site: 722 Freeman Lane, Grass Valley


Facebook: Grass Valley Training Zone

Anytime Fitness

562 Sutton Way, Grass Valley

530-652-4680” target=”_blank”>Text”>

Ironworks Athletic Club

153 S. Auburn St., Grass Valley

530-272-9462” target=”_blank”>Text”>

Fast and Fit

760 S. Auburn St., Grass Valley

530-273-5862” target=”_blank”>Text”>

Clubhouse Fitness

11882 Tammy Way, Grass Valley


Clubhouse.Fitness” target=”_blank”>Text”>Clubhouse.Fitness