SCHERERVILLE | A fast-growing fitness chain that targets people who do not belong to gyms will put its first Northwest Indiana health club in a former big-box store in Schererville.
Planet Fitness plans to open a 20,000-square-foot gym in the former Menards on Indianapolis Boulevard on Wednesday. Developer Al Kygier is transforming the building at 1000 U.S. 41 into Boulevard Square, a shopping center that is expected to house about a half dozen stores.
The low-cost gym chain, which caters to novices and promotes itself as a judgement-free zone, will be the first major tenant, said town manager Robert Volkmann.
New Hampshire-based Planet Fitness is known for $10 a month basic membership fees and an emphasis on making workouts comfortable for regular people who are not fitness enthusiasts, to the point where it hands out free pizza once a month.
The concept has proven extremely popular, as the gym has netted 4.5 million members since it first started franchising a decade ago, said public relations manager Megan Lynch. Planet Fitness started with four clubs in 2003 and now has more than 700 gyms spread across 47 states and Puerto Rico. Planet Fitness had 242 clubs by 2008, and has since tripled its growth.
"It's really exploded around the country," said franchise owner Rick Raimondo, who is opening his second fitness club. "It's really the unbelievable gym equipment, the low prices and the judgment-free zone. It's really trying to create a relaxed environment that caters to the hardcore fitness people."
The chain will enter a crowded Northwest Indiana market that includes Fuel Fitness, Anytime Fitness, Charter Fitness and the massive Omni Health and Fitness Club just down the street.
But Planet Fitness is not necessarily competing with established health clubs because its target market is the nearly 90 percent of people who do not belong to gyms.
Unique features include free pizza every first Monday, free bagels every second Tuesday and a "lunk alarm" that blares a siren and flashes a blue light when gym-goers violate prohibitions on grunting and other bodybuilding behavior. The bans are supposed to create a casual environment.
"The majority of the people at Planet Fitness are regular people," Raimondo said. "They don't go to the gym everyday. They're not hardcore aerobic queens. It's relaxed and easy."
The new gym will have 90 pieces of cardiovascular equipment, 50 pieces of strength training equipment, tanning beds, and hydro massage beds. The club also will feature a 12-minute abdominal circuit and a 30-hour workout circuit that's aimed at letting people work out every major muscle group in a hurry, such if they can swing by on a lunch break.
About 10 to 15 employees will work at the gym, which will be open 24 hours Monday through Friday and from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. on the weekends.
If the location proves successful, Raimondo said he will consider expansion opportunities in neighboring towns.