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Posted: February 7, 2010 12:01 a.m.

Athletic Club remains vacant

Former trainer plans to open new complex

The beloved Covington Athletic Club is in the process of foreclosure and all of the exercise equipment has been sold.

The CAC closed on Dec. 4, and Owner Phil Johnson, a local lawyer, said his bank sold the equipment and bankruptcy of the club company is a possibility. Johnson had hoped to sell the club and equipment and use the proceeds to pay CAC customers who had paid monthly membership dues in advance, but he said Friday that wasn’t going to happen.

A group of former CAC members had hoped to join together and buy the club, but now no buyer is likely to move until the club is foreclosed. Johnson said a few potential buyers fell through previously, but one local person remains interested.

Former member Debra Griffith considered joining the group of members looking to buy the club, but she has since ruled that out. She said one complication for potential buyers is that many of the CAC’s members have moved to other gyms. Therefore, the new owner or owners, would have to have enough money to carry the business for at least a year while the membership base was built back up.

Johnson said previously that the number of memberships declined from a high of 2,000 in 2006 to around 1,400 last year. Griffith said many members moved to less expensive, smaller, simpler gyms, especially if they didn’t need the pool or the variety of classes offered by the CAC.

However, the members who stayed until the CAC closed have since moved on to somewhat similar facilities like the local YMCA and LA Fitness in Conyers.

More than Bare-Bones Gyms

Louly Hay-Kapp, interim executive director at the YMCA, said several members from the CAC joined the YMCA in December. She said as far as she knows the YMCA is the only other facility in Covington that offers the type of classes and support staff previously provided by the CAC.

Because of the influx of members, the YMCA has been more full and has had to enforce the 30-minute limit on cardiovascular workout machines. However, Hay-Kapp said the rule is usually only enforced strictly on Monday evenings, the busiest day of the week. While some members have worried about the larger crowds, Hay-Kapp said the YMCA is not nearly at capacity.

One of the CAC’s biggest draws was its indoor, heated pool. The YMCA only has an outdoor pool, and while discussions about building an indoor pool have been going on for a while, Hay-Kapp said those plans are still in the conversational stages.

Adult monthly memberships at the YMCA are $45, while family memberships are $60 for two adults and any kids in the same house. However, one of the benefits of the not-for-profit YMCA is that it offer financial assistance to anyone who can’t pay the full costs.

"We never turn anyone away for an inability to pay. We want to be a part of something bigger," Hay-Kapp said.

In addition to popular spin and swim classes, the YMCA offers recreation programs for youth and programs for older adults.

LA Fitness Manager Randy Corker has also seen many CAC members walk though his door. He said the pool and racquetball courts were a big draw for many of the newest Covington members, in addition to the 54 different classes offered in areas like kickboxing, Pilates and belly dancing.

"One of the fantastic things about the CAC is that they had a tight group; it was like a family gym over there. They loved that gym … when they would get done working out they sit on the stools around their with a newspaper and coffee and just sit there and talk with each other, just like a family," Corker said. "Some of their members are the nicest people, they just want to swim or get their little work out on. We’re glad to have them here."

Corker said LA Fitness has also hired some of the former instructors to help train the facility around 4,500 members. Single adult memberships at LA Fitness are $34.99.

A New Covington Athletic Complex

Griffith said many members have also joined the Walton Athletic Club in Monroe as well as other smaller gyms in Newton and surrounding counties.

However, she has started working out with former CAC trainer Jimmy Birdsong, who is running intense boot camp session in a warehouse at 9130 Wheat St. in Covington.

Birdsong said many trainers from the CAC have ventured out on their own doing training at homes and churches. However, none have as big of plans as Birdsong, who actually left the CAC in July to pursue his own career.

By July, he hopes to transform the 40,000 sq. ft. warehouse on Wheat St. into a full-fledged athletic complex. The idea came to Birdsong when he was training with some employees at Greyland Development, the company that owns the warehouse. Hunter Hall and Robert McCullar, who are now partners at Solucion Consulting, decided to join Birdsong in his vision.

The warehouse is expected to have around 5,000 sq. ft. of gym space with weights and equipment and 14,000 sq. ft. of open training space for classes and other activities.

However, Birdsong also plans to have a full batting cage as well as a moon walker for the kids. The baseball tie in is natural for Birdsong who is the baseball and softball trainer at Eastside High School.

In the meantime, Birdsong is running the boot camp sessions in the warehouse. The sessions are combination of military style training, athletic training and weigh training. Everyday he sets up around 20 different stations that customers complete as part of a full body workout, after a warmup of course.

"Every day is a different day, because we set up different workout stations, like circuit training. We hit every body part, shoulders, triceps, legs, back, and also do cardiovascular work. We hit every body part every day from a different way," he said. "For example, on the biceps, we may do bicep curl with a ball and dumbbells one day, then we may use a straight bar the other day. One hits the short head of the muscle and the other hits the long head."

The workout consist mainly of free weights, Bosu balls, balance boards, bungee cords and ropes. Birdsong said he prefers free weights and resistance training because they build up core strength better than machines. However, the completed athletic complex will have a full variety of machines to serve all customers, he said.

Birdsong calls his new company The Body Transformers and has a Facebook page. He charges $75 per month for three days per week of training with a personal trainer, and $120 per month for up to six days a week with a trainer. Classes are offered Monday through Friday at 5 a.m., 6 a.m., 7 a.m., 8:30 a.m., 4:30 p.m. and 6 p.m. Saturday classes are offered at 7:30 a.m. and 9 a.m. He said he has around 50 clients as of now. He can be reached at 404-933-7487 or at bodytransformers@charter.net.

Although the closing of CAC leaves a void in the market, Birdsong said he felt Covington needed another athletic facility regardless.

"I feel that we will service a market that CAC would not service. There is a need for what we are offering to Newton and surrounding counties," he said.

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