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Future Of Bethesda Fitness First Up In The Air

by Aaron Kraut — June 21, 2013 at 10:00 am 924 15 Comments

Fitness First in Bethesda, via Fitness First

On Thursday, Fitness First announced it sold 17 of its 18 locations to Gold’s Gym International.

The Bethesda location (7904 Wisconsin Ave.) is the only gym not part of the deal, and probably for good reason.

The 7900 Wisconsin Ave. property is slated to be razed and redeveloped into a 17-story, 475-unit apartment building with some ground floor retail by Chevy Chase-based developer JBG Cos. JBG hopes for a groundbreaking in January 2014.

Still, Fitness First CEO Peter Harvey told us he intends to keep the Bethesda gym in its existing location.

“Once my lease is up in a year, I have an additional 5-year option that I intend to exercise,” Harvey wrote in an e-mail. “JBG was not aware of this when they announced the redevelopment.”

The building as proposed will include 22,000 square feet of ground floor retail. A JBG official said in December the developer was negotiating with a grocery store chain to take about 20,000 square feet of that space.

Meanwhile, Fitness First members who use other gyms can expect a Gold’s Gym rebranding in the next two to three months, a Fitness First rep said today. The email sent to gym members on Thursday afternoon follows:

June 20, 2013

Dear Fitness First members:

Effective last night, Fitness First has entered into an agreement with Gold’s Gym International in which they will acquire 17 of our 18 locations, leaving our Bethesda location unaffected.   After the transfer of ownership becomes official(by the end of this month), we will send out more detailed information regarding our Bethesda club and any impact it may have upon you.

I would like to thank each and every one of you for your support over the years – from new members to those who have been on board for 22 years.

I hope we’ve made a difference for you, and I wish you all future success and great health!

Peter Harvey

Photo via Fitness First

  • rorojo

    “Once my lease is up in a year, I have an additional 5-year option that I
    intend to exercise,” Harvey wrote in an e-mail. “JBG was not aware of
    this when they announced the redevelopment.”

    Sure… whatever you say Harvey.

  • nwarnold

    I think we can all read between the lines here and know how this will play out in the end — which is too bad because Fitness First provides a great workout environment: clean facilities, good classes, and great daycare. Thank you Peter Harvey for your gym all these years, but now we need a lower cost gym option in Bethesda. We have all these overpriced gyms that are 3x as much as Fitness First with sometimes only marginally better services/facilities. I hope someone in Bethesda sees the need and mimics Fitness First’s success.

    • defak

      Clean? YOu and I were clearly not working out at the same FF. The North Potomac and Germatown locations were filthy. And the Frederick locations not much better (the now closed Frederick location was awful). Not to mention that the Frederick location is in a very sketch area.

  • Lena

    So what are you screwing all the members and cashing out from the developer in one year? Thanks but no thanks.

  • Teyo

    So, he’s going to try to milk this location for extra cash and get JBG to buy him out? Does he really need the money after the other 17 locations he just sold?

  • MechanicalTurk

    And I was just about to cancel my Gold’s Gym membership. Haha who am I kidding, no one can escape a Gold’s Gym membership.

  • Jimmy

    A poorly run company for many years. For everything they did right, they did twice the amount wrong. Bethesda will be closed within a year after memberships are oversold and more money is added to Harvey’s bank account. Golds gym for years was despised by Fitness First — for them to say it is a good fit is dishonest and pure greed.

    • nwarnold

      I’m curious if you read the article. It pretty much says in so many words that Betehsda will close regardless. And give examples of what they did wrong, as opposed to everyone else who apparently does it right (which is probably easy at 3x the cost). Finally, don’t fault someone for being a capitalist. He has every right to sell his business for maximum profit — and you have every right to get a membership at another gym.

  • FF mgmt

    LET ME CLEAR THE CONFUSION….. JBG is fully aware of our 5 year option to extend. We have met with them several times over the last year. The JBG companies are trying to relocate us to a building 1/2 mile down Wisconsin Avenue so they can proceed with their redevelopment before our lease expiration in 2019. However, due to the fact that the building is a different set of investors from the building we are in now,the economics of the deal must be worked out by JBG . If a deal cannot work out, then we will be holding up their redevelopment project until 2019 and staying in the 7900 location. If they can move us where the economics make sense, then we will have a brand new location, over 18,000 square feet, within the next 2 years! We love the Bethesda market and plan on continuing to service our members for years to come! Thank you

    • goodluckharvey

      HAHA! Good luck with all that! Neither the city of Bethesda nor MoCo will allow you to hang up such a big new property that will generate millions more in tax revenue. If necessary, they would exercise imminent domain or similar tactic. And if you think you have rights under your private contract to fight, please go read Kelo v City of New London.

      • Inquiring Mind

        What is “imminent domain”?

    • bethesdamembersneedanswers

      What about those who signed up at different FF locations and now reside in Bethesda and use the Bethesda location as the primary? Or how about those that signed up at Bethesda as the primary, but now can only access 1/18th of the available locations when we signed our contract? What is being done to accommodate these members?

      Some members enjoy the flexibility of using multiple locations while at work and at home. It seems as though not much thought was considered for those that live and/or work in Bethesda and enjoy having the option to use other locations. We need some transparency and this is being spun as a positive when service is being rolled back. We are stuck in one location without any additional value add. How about spouses and significant others that registered at other locations, but can’t work out in Bethesda now with a spouse that uses this as the primary?

      An 18,000 square foot gym sounds fine and dandy, but you failed to consider that perhaps many of your members signed up and go to this location for the logistical benefits, and you’ve completely isolated two segments of your customer base: those that registered here and may use other locations, and those that registered at other locations, but still rely on accessibility to Bethesda and those other locations.

      • Rbw

        Did anyone win against ff and still get two locations. The Tyson’s fir my boyfriend and Bethesda for me is the reason we signed up. I feel this is a breach of contract.

  • sammy

    I do not understand how it will work with the Bethesda gym. Do you have to tell FF you intend to stay at that gym? Are you locked him if you just happened to have signed up at that location? How will that work?

  • mr smith

    sorry peter, but this is bethesda. i train at FF but for this area it is considered a basement gym. it is gone soon with so many wealthy coming here. there is no way you can hold the potential of the space for a gym that has had 4 managers in 4 months, broken machines and dirty facilities. most of the time, the paper towels are out in the bathroom. you hire unsatisfactory staff.


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