Friday, January 9, 2009

Fitness Centers Stay In Shape Amid Bad Economy

“Not many industries can withstand the effects of a recession. But in a time when banks and carmakers seek government lifelines and suggested retail prices stand as strong as ladders in a tornado, the health and fitness industry appears to be holding steady. Not that it has gone unscathed in the current economic climate. ‘While nobody is recession-proof, health clubs are pretty recession-resistant,’ said Bill Simon, general manager of Fitness Unlimited in Salinas. Scot McKay, who owns a Honda dealership, several restaurants and has real estate ventures, said the most reliable business he runs is Carmel Valley Athletic Club. Membership has gone up in recent months, along with overall use, he said. ‘It's a stressful time,’ McKay said. The gym ‘is a great way to relieve stress in your daily life, and it's not that expensive.’ Even though Giovanna Radilla of Salinas has not been able to find a career-oriented job since graduating from college last year, she is not about to drop her gym membership. ‘It would be one of the last things I cut out,’ said Radilla, who works out at Fitness Unlimited. The Monterey Sports Center, which is operated by the city, has persevered through the recession as it did in previous economic downturns, manager Jeff Vierra said. Looking at the six-month period from July to December, the Sports Center made more money in 2008 than in 2007. ‘Right now things are pretty busy as they normally are,’ Vierra said. ‘The statistics show ... that one of the industries that doesn't usually get hit too hard is the fitness industry.’ But there are also signs of instability among local fitness centers. The Salinas fitness club scene has gone through some turnover in the last couple of months. The Salinas Athletic Club closed in November, followed by 24 Hour Fitness right after Christmas. Around the same time that 24 Hour Fitness closed, Fitness Unlimited opened in the Salinas Athletic Club location in Harden Ranch Plaza on North Main Street. Fitness Unlimited is honoring 24 Hour Fitness memberships.”

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