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Published: Saturday, 2/2/2008

High-end gym to open in Sylvania Township

The Urban Active gym includes a basketball court, pool, and full line of equipment. The Urban Active gym includes a basketball court, pool, and full line of equipment.

A Kentucky firm is betting that metro Toledo's struggling economy has enough muscle to support a $13 million fitness palace.

The 53,000-square-foot Urban Active Fitness center will open Monday in Sylvania Township at 2859 North Holland-Sylvania Rd. near Central Ave.

"People discount Toledo but I think it's a great market," said Royce Pulliam, chief executive of Global Fitness Holdings LLC, Lexington, Ky. Backed by private equity group Laurel Crown Partners of Los Angeles, the former Gold's Gym franchisee has been building pricey multistory fitness facilities across Kentucky, Ohio, Tennessee, and Pennsylvania.

It is one of three large gym projects on the drawing board in metro Toledo.

Fitness industry executives locally have been following the developments with interest because the projects are larger in scope than they are accustomed to. And the megagyms are being developed at a tough time for a local economy struggling to deal with job losses and problems in the housing industry.

"It's going to be an interesting year," said Don Stump, an owner of the Lifestyles for Ladies Only chain. "There's going to be fallout for some."

Mr. Stump, who has worked in the local fitness industry for many years, is impressed by the Urban Active center, which includes an indoor swimming pool, basketball court, and full-line of cardio and weight-lifting equipment. "It's like dying and going to health club heaven or health club envy," he said with a chuckle.

Global Fitness Holdings is eyeing a second site off Conant Street in Maumee, across from the Showcase Cinema complex. It has obtained a zoning change needed to build a gym on the site, but hasn't yet closed on the purchase of the property, Maumee officials said.

That facility likely would compete with another nearby upscale gym, 360 Fitness; Wildwood Athletic Club, off Reynolds Road, and a large Super Fitness Center planned by that Toledo chain off Reynolds Road at Dorr Street.

But Amy Hemelgarn Mauder, area manager for Super Fitness, said the chain appeals to a different audience. It bills itself as an affordable alternative to competitors charging membership fees of $40 a month and up. Super Fitness expects to open a fully equipped 60,000-square-foot center in a former Food Town supermarket by summer.

Contact Gary Pakulski at: gpakulski@theblade.com or 419-724-6082.

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