It’s still more than two months before the Life Time fitness center opens at Downtown Palm Beach Gardens but residents can still play a game of pickleball, check out the stationary bikes or even practice yoga.
The three-story center on the north end of Downtown has been under construction since 2019 but, in anticipation of its July opening, the Minnesota-based fitness giant has opened a preview center in the former west elm store and is offering free Wednesday morning classes.
Concierges selling pre-opening memberships will provide a virtual walk-through of the “Athletic Country Club,” which will have lockers for 700, a coffee shop, 25 personal trainers, indoor pickleball courts, an indoor pool and spa plus a rooftop pool with a bar and bistro.
Even as construction guts Downtown’s north end, Life Time’s opening will be one of two this year, with REI Co-op, the Seattle-based outdoors outfitter, planning to open in May in the former Urban Outfitters space. A 426-space parking garage also will open next to Life Time.
“We could not be more excited to bring our Life Time experience to the Palm Beach Gardens and West Palm Beach communities,” Johnny Groff, Life Time area director, said in a press release. “There has been incredible anticipation since we broke ground in 2019, and we’re thrilled to now have our preview center open to share what makes Life Time so unique for the entire family.”
Construction already is under way on a new street to cut across Downtown’s north end, linking its east and west drives. A nine-story, 174-room Aloft hotel is planned on the north side of the road, across from Grimaldi’s, which remains open for business.
A 280-unit, eight-story apartment building has been approved for The Cheesecake Factory site but Downtown’s owner, Chicago-based Shopcore Properties, has not said when Cheesecake will close for demolition and the restaurant remains open.
Construction work has engulfed the CMX Cinemas Downtown at the Gardens 16, both inside and out, but half the screens remain open with work to be finished by the end of July.
And on the shopping center’s south end, finishing touches are being installed after about 18 months of construction on the outdoor walkways, planters and awnings.
Life Time emerges from the pandemic
Life Time, founded in 1992, went public in 2004 but its founder, Bahram Akradi, took it back private in 2015 before the pandemic slowdown hit. In October, the company went public again, raising $702 million at $18 a share, less than the upper end projection of nearly $1 billion. The stock is now trading around $15 a share.
With the public offering came a reinvention.
“We could have taken that period and think, ‘Oh, my God. This is bad. This is bad,'” Akradi told the Minneapolis Star Tribune, for a story published in March. “Instead, we’ve taken that time as an opportunity to literally examine every little detail in our company, every detail of execution, customer experience.”
Life Time, second in the industry behind LA Fitness, allows members to use any of its 160 centers across the United States and Canada. It will cap membership in Palm Beach Gardens at 4,500.
The Gardens outlet, dubbed a Life Time Athletic Country Club, is one of 12 planned for this year. Last year, Life Time opened a 1.2 million-square-foot Coral Gables development. It has fitness centers in Tampa and Boca Raton with plans to open at The Falls Shopping Center in Miami in 2023.
Arora: Attracting 55-plus
In one move that fits well with its planned Gardens location, Life Time in January launched Arora, which designs workouts and social events for customers 55 and over.
In a March earnings call, Akradi described how the Arora Club takes advantage of insurance policies that pay for its over-55 clients to stay healthy.
“So the ARORA Club is an opportunity to double and triple that population (of 55 plus), program them specifically in the hours of the club where we have the best opportunity to bring those people in, where the club is being the most underutilized,” he said.
Life Time is also taking advantage of the pickleball craze, a game that combines tennis, badminton and ping-pong. At Life Time’s Boca Raton location, workers converted two tennis courts into eight pickleball courts. Like most pickleball courts in the county, those are outdoors.
At Gardens, Life Time plans three indoor pickleball courts, proclaiming themselves the only indoor pickleball option in Palm Beach County.
Drop off your kids on date night
They’ll also have six second-floor classroom spaces, including studios for yoga, barre and pilates, and a cycling studio with 50 flywheel bikes.
For Senior General Manager Susan Mistri, the new center is a far cry from her first Life Time job 20 years ago in a Chicago suburb, where stationary bikes had belts and few tech connections.
Now, the bikes are beltless and customers hop on board a plugged-in experience, where they can ride a simulated mountain road and store their results on their cell phone.
“The first bikes couldn’t monitor the cadence,” she said, marveling at the new machines in the preview center. “They just lacked technology.”
Life Time prides itself on engaging children, with a Kids Academy designed to help them not only with workouts but with homework. Aside from basketball, tumbling and a maze, kids try art, music and Spanish language for up to two-and-a-half hours a day.
“We’re not just watching them, we’re constantly engaging them,” said Michelle Internicola, the kids and aquatics leader. “You can know your kid is active.”
Plus kids can be dropped off for a few hours on the weekend.
How much does Life Time cost?
Life Time doesn’t require annual contracts. The cost to join is $200, with a monthly fee of $229 for singles, $329 for couples and $80 for the first child 13 to 25 years old, dropping to $60 for the second child or for kids younger than 13. Monthly prices go up $20 after the center opens.
Instead of sales reps, they have concierges, who will walk prospective members through the offerings and then, once they are members, provide “the next level of experience,” as concierge Connor Brody explained.
While it awaits its opening, Life Time will offer 8:30 a.m. “Wellness Wednesdays” classes in yoga, pilates and other strengthening classes outdoors at Downtown Palm Beach Gardens in May.
The preview center, with centerpiece pickleball court, is open 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday to Thursday and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Friday to Sunday.
© 2022 Joel Engelhardt. All rights reserved.