Squamish gyms concerned by proposed facility 

Competition from district for business being watched carefully

Don Smith carved out his slice of entrepreneurial life nearly 20 years ago. A former rail worker, he now sits a little kingly behind the counter of ClubFlex in downtown Squamish. On this particular morning, he’s got a copy of The Province opened in front of him, is perusing it quietly. Fresh from a doctor’s appointment, he’s still wearing his yellow coat, though it’s mostly unzipped.

“It’s not bad,” he says, referring to business. “But we’re going to be going into a tough time. Right now, everything’s hunk-dory, but, in two years, things won’t be so rosy.”

And so it’s with a bit of discomfort that he greets news of the district exploring the idea of a community weight room at Brennan Park. The idea isn’t new, though it seems to be gaining speed thanks to the efforts of a group called Weight Room 2009. Riun Blackwell represented the group at a recent committee of the whole meeting, and the new council liked his pitch enough to devote staff time to penning a report. But, until that report comes out in January, district staff won’t be saying much.

“It depends on how big a facility they go for,” says Smith. “You go into Vancouver or some of those places, and they’re just huge, and it costs so little. There’s no way you can compete with that.”

ClubFlex is 63,000 square feet. And that footage doesn’t come cheap; every year, Smith ponies up $90,000 in rent. Then there are his equipment costs. There’s a little bit of everything in there, from a basketball net and punching bag, to free weights and treadmills. The treadmills are about $7,000 a pop. Take in the whole club, and you’re looking at roughly $200,000 in equipment, all of it procured by Smith.

“I’ve put a lot of time in this club,” he says. “Everything that’s been done has been done by me.”

He’s got about 400 members enjoying the fruits of that labour, and those people are subject to a scale of fares sliding from shy of $40 a month to a little less than $30 for long-time customers.

Of course, you don’t open a business and expect to rake in the dough without a competition. When Dream Fitness opened in the business park, Smith saw some of his aerobic business skimmed off by the women-only endeavour. Now, with his lease expenses likely to go up in the coming months, he’s considering the same location.

And yet, Smith stresses that he is not opposed to a community weight room. Certainly, he understands the appeal of having one next to a pool. His paramount concern is the size of the facility.

Over at Dream Fitness, Katie Lyall waxes less concerned. Her operation services cardio, strength and other needs, but she’s not put off by the idea of government opening a potentially competitive facility.

“Business is business,” she says. “Any business that you have, when they find out there’ll be a rival, it’s like, ‘Whoops.’ But if we think we have something special, then we don’t need to worry. People have the right to do what they want.”

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