Locally owned Lifestyle Family Fitness is selling its entire chain to LA Fitness, a growing workout behemoth from California, a trade publication reports.
Acquisition of all 33 Lifestyle locations should be complete within a few weeks, according to the Club Industry publication. LA Fitness already has more than 500 locations nationwide, including 63 in Florida.
The two companies were in direct competition, transforming big box stores into full-service gyms for everyone from body builders to moms whittling off baby weight. Lifestyle, which opened its first gym in Lakeland in 1982, had been selling off parts of its multi-state operations during the past year.
"The field is being narrowed," said Rick Berks, longtime fitness industry professional and owner of almost 40 Youfit Health Clubs, nine in the Tampa area. "LA Fitness dominates in that market. They’re a big outfit and they’re difficult to compete against."
Lifestyle officials did not return calls or e-mails to their St. Petersburg headquarters. By Tuesday afternoon, Lifestyle members still hadn’t been notified about the sale.
Neither Lifestyle nor LA Fitness mentioned the sale on company websites, and have yet to address member’s biggest concerns about memberships or whether any Lifestyle locations will be closed.
An estimated 51.4 million Americans had gym memberships in 2011 with revenues of $21.4 billion, according to the International Health, Racquet & Sportsclub Association. LA Fitness, with 2010 revenue of $1 billion, ranked second in an annual Club Industry ranking. Lifestyle ranked 10th, with $102.4 million in revenue, the publication said.
Clues about Lifestyle’s performance came in November when news reports showed it sold clubs in Ohio, Indiana and North Carolina, and closed two Florida locations. That same month, LA Fitness surged in size, with the purchase of 171 Bally Total Fitness clubs in 16 states and the District of Columbia.
LA Fitness has been aggressive about its local expansion, opening centers near Lifestyle locations in Tampa, St. Petersburg and Palm Harbor.
The growth also includes a new two-story location under construction on South Dale Mabry Highway. Coincidentally, in 2008, Lifestyle had its eye on the same property and said it would locate its corporate headquarters and a 43,500 square foot center there.
The plans never materialized.
Maintaining these massive, all-encompassing centers with swimming pools, racquetball courts and the latest fitness equipment is expensive, Berks said. That’s compounded by the cost of hiring staff for customer childcare and group fitness classes, something that was a must 20 years ago.
"If you didn’t have a huge program, you didn’t survive," said Berks, who created the Planet Fitness chain before selling his share in 2008.
Berks said the Lifestyle sale doesn’t mean the Tampa area will see fewer fitness clubs. This year, his Youfit chain is adding two new locations, on Race Track Road and in New Port Richey.
Now, newer fitness clubs are becoming specialized and targeting a smaller niche, he said. For example, Youfit offers basic cardio and strength training for older, less serious athletes; while places like Orange Theory and Cross Fit offer more intense "boot camp" style workouts.