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LA Fitness expanding rapidly

Fitness club’s third location, in Stevenson Ranch, will include an outdoor pool

Posted: August 1, 2012 2:00 a.m.
Updated: August 1, 2012 2:00 a.m.

Shane Gray works with a sheep foot compactor on July 23 in what will become the outdoor pool area of the future LA Fitness location in Stevenson Ranch.

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LA Fitness, a privately held health and fitness company, is opening its third gym in Santa Clarita and really isn’t worried about the competition, company officials said. Plans are to open the gym by the end of October.

“We’re a value-provider, not real high cost,” said Bill Horner, senior vice president and chief real estate officer for LA Fitness. “People spend more at Starbucks than they do for our club.”

There are different kinds of fitness centers — high end, low end and niche. Despite the offerings from multiple gyms, fitness centers are still only reaching 20 percent of the population, Horner said.

The company used to be concerned about going into new areas because people had other financial obligations, he said. But now the economy has turned around and “boomers” are coming back into the clubs in droves.

Also, the upcoming generation sees they will be living longer, and they become physically active to ensure their health regimens “contribute quality to that quantity,” Horner said.

“Over the last 10 years, it’s become part of the daily fabric of peoples’ lives,” he said.

LA Fitness operates 510 clubs and has 35 more under construction, Horner said.

“We will have 75 new openings for this year,” he said. “And we’ll open 100 the year after that.”

The newest LA Fitness will open in Stevenson Ranch and replace the vacated Linens ‘n Things, which filed for bankruptcy and closed all of its retail outlets in 2008.

The retail center on Pico Canyon Road was built in 1996. Details of the LA Fitness lease were not released but the property had been listed on the rental market for $378,000 per year.

In addition to a fitness gym, LA Fitness plans to offer a basketball court, spa, sauna and more in the 35,000 square-foot building. An outdoor swimming pool will be built in the area that is now the loading dock behind the store front, Horner said.

The conditional-use permit was approved for a three-lane lap pool, enclosed by a 10-foot masonry wall.

The LA Fitness operation, which was founded on Arrow Highway in Covina in 1984, has clubs throughout the country but is still overseen by its founders today, he said.

“We have in excess of 3 million members and a pretty good formula for success,” Horner said.

That formula is based on convenience and proximity. LA Fitness looks for locations that it says are on “the normal path of travel.” When selecting a site, the company studies the terrain and road system, and analyzes what kind of traffic and customer base it can draw from a 15-minute range, Horner said.

“We have clubs in some places only two miles apart,” he said. “But it’s not easy to get to one or the other. You have to have great access and be able to turn into a center during rush hour.”

The location for each new LA Fitness has to meet a “daily needs” criteria. The median age in Santa Clarita is 35 years old, according to the most recent U.S. Census data. That age group wants to know where the grocery store and health club is when they move into one of the communities, Horner said. People often stop going to a club if they have to travel out of their way.

The demographics of the Stevenson Ranch location bear striking similarity to the Valencia and Santa Clarita locations for LA Fitness.

“The other two are very successful clubs,” Horner said. “SCV is full of active people.”

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