My Gym Closed, Where Now?

Well, it was an end of an era here in Little Rock when on December 31st, 2011 the Westside YMCA (the last remaining YMCA in Central Arkansas) closed.  At one point there were as many as six YMCA’s in Little Rock and now…none.  For me this was very disappointing not only because I’m a member of the Y, but I grew up going to the Y.  That’s where I learned how to swim. That’s where I learned how to play racquetball. That’s where I would spend hot summer days at the outdoor pool.  I have many fond memories of the Y, but it is also sad to say, that many of them were not created at the Westside Y.

The Westside Y was a hole.  It was by far the worst gym I’ve ever stepped foot into.  Over half of the lockers in the locker rooms didn’t function or had somebodies nasty towel, bathing suit or other un-describable clothing item in it.  For awhile, none of the women’s bathrooms locked.  There was mold and mildew in the shower room and pools.  There were holes in the walls of the weight room.  There was a broken mirror in the weight room.  OK, so I could go on and on, but I won’t.  I haven’t spoken of these short comings before, because I was really hoping that it would change and things would start to look up for the Y, but that’s not happening. Now I’m on the search for a gym that would fulfill the needs of a triathlete.

Searching for a gym as a triathlete, of course one of the biggest limiting factors of a gym is a pool, but other amenities such as spin classes are also pluses.  Here is a run down of the gyms in the Little Rock area that I’ve explored.

The Little Rock Athletic Club
This is my dream gym.  They have everything you could think of including massage, a restaurant and cafe, a 25 meter swimming pool, spin classes, an indoor track, yoga and body pump…but it comes with a price.  To join as an individual you have to pay a $300 joining fee and then $84 a month.  For a family membership (which seems kind of strict and I don’t know if Phil and I would even qualify for) you have to pay a $500 joining fee and then $124 a month. Ouch! The LRAC is also associated with the Little Rock Racquet Club (which has a 50 meter pool and Masters Swimming), North Little Rock Athletic Club and Downtown Athletic Club and joint memberships are available, but I’m not sure the cost on that.  Another bonus about this gym is that is actually across the street from where the Y was, so I know that it would be convenient for us.

UALR PoolUniversity of Arkansas at Little Rock (UALR)
I’ve been to this pool before for the Arkansas Canoe Club practice sessions and it is a very nice pool, but I have never seen their gym area so Phil and I decided that we’d swim by this weekend to check it out, but it was closed because classes don’t start back up until the 14th (con).  The pool is an extremely nice 25 yards x 50 meter pool with a removable bulk head to accommodate multiple venues for competitive swimming and diving, water polo, and recreation.  When I called about membership they said that for a family membership (which we would qualify for) it would be $40 a month, plus we would need to get a sponsor which is anyone who is either a student, faculty member or alumni of UALR.  To just use the pool it would be $3 per visit plus photo ID.  Very reasonable.  A few of the other cons of this location is that it’s not in that great of an area and when we would be using it, it could be kind of sketchy and parking could be an issue during the school year.

Bess Chisum Stephens Center
This used to be a YWCA but was taken over by Centers for Youth and Families and totally renovated.  The 25 meter pool is immaculate but the weights and cardio equipment are separated into two kind of small rooms which I found kind of strange. Since the facility had been recently renovated, all of the equipment and locker rooms were in great condition and brand new. As for membership fees this facility is very fairly priced (around $40 a month), but one thing that annoyed me is that they offered a family membership and individual memberships but in order to qualify for the family membership you must be a married couple or related.  It is inexpensive enough to do two individual memberships, but just a little annoying.

Jim Dailey Fitness & Aquatic Center
Phil and I visited this facility over the weekend and I was pleasantly surprised.  I had heard some not so great things about this facility, but when we arrived I was surprised at how big it was and when we went inside I was surprised at how nice it is.  This facility is run by Little Rock Parks and Recreation so they have quite a few different programs that they offer including children’s programs and tennis courts.  The facility itself is located directly behind War Memorial Stadium and is often referred to as War Memorial gym. This gym includes a 25 yard indoor pool and an outdoor pool during the summer.  They have quite a few different fitness classes, a ton of weight machines and cardio equipment and they also have an gymnasium with an indoor track on the second floor.  Fee-wise, the facility is very flexible and reasonable.  They offer pricing for daily, monthly and yearly use along with aquatic fees and “household” pricing (meaning you don’t have to be related or married to qualify.) One downside of the fees is if you go month to month then you have to pay by check or cash each month instead of a bank draft.  For Phil and I (a household of 2) it is just $55 a month.  There are no joining fees.

CrossFit is a different kind of gym that has become very popular lately.  Instead of just going to workout, you go during a scheduled session that is basically a mix of circuit training, boot camp and personal training, but all in a group.  Phil and I had visited the Little Rock CrossFit earlier in the year because this is where the meeting for Raid the Rock took place.  Not only did we see all of the equipment, but we also saw a session in progress and boy were they working! I think Phil and I would get in incredible shape at this gym, but (and this is a big but), they don’t have a pool! I would be willing to carry a membership and pay a daily pass to say UALR ($3/day) or the Jim Dailey Fitness & Aquatic Center ($5/day), but $225/month it’s hard to justify.

Revolution Fitness & Health
There are two benefits to this gym, 1. it’s just a mile from my house and 2. they are having a special right now to join at just $19.95/month plus $39 joining fee.  Since this gym does not have a pool you’d also have to figure in the cost for pool sessions.

Health & Fitness in the Heights
This gym is also about a mile from my house but it is a bit more expensive.  A couple is $88/month but they are running a special right now that you can pay $99 for three months or $33 a month, but I’m not sure if this applies for couples as well. Again, this gym does not have a pool so you could have to factor in the monthly cost of swimming.

10 Fitness
10 Fitness is well known for being the $10 a month gym which in comparison to the rest of the gyms I’ve listed is quite the bargain!  I’ve never been inside one of these gyms, but my boss used to belong there and she said that it has nice equipment and is very clean.  With the low monthly fees it is very easy to justify not having a pool and making weekly trips to another pool.

So where did we end up? Phil and I decided to try out War Memorial.  Since we are going on a month to month basis, it is nice because we aren’t locked into any kind of contract in case circumstances were to change.  We’ve worked out there two times so far, once on Monday, again on Tuesday and today I’ll try out the pool for the first time.

2 comments to My Gym Closed, Where Now?

  • Excellent post. Nice of you to summarize the many options.

    May I suggest one more….Arkansas Sports Performance Center. We are now in (wait for it…)

    the old Westside YMCA building!

    Yes, it was a mess, but we have spent a lot of time & money getting it up and running again. Our focus is the athlete–both healthy and injured. We specialize in sport-specific training, but on a real individual basis. If you’re a soccer player, we help you with the things you need on the soccer field. If you are an endurance athlete, we train your body to be more efficient. In short, whatever you need to be better at your sport or activity, we can help.

    The outdoor pool won’t be resurrected, but the indoor pool is up and running again. The only thing we don’t have ready yet (soon though) is the locker room/shower area.

    Please come back by and see what we’ve done!

  • Abby Ethington

    BJ, that is great to hear! It was so sad to see the facility crumbling considering it had so much potential. I really wish you would refurbish the outdoor pool because it is one of the very few 50 m pools in LR. As a triathlete I think it is a nice selling point.

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