Longtime Aspen gym closes | AspenTimes.com

Longtime Aspen gym closes

Carolyn SackariasonThe Aspen TimesAspen, CO Colorado

ASPEN – After 34 years in operation, the Aspen Athletic Club is closing its doors and leaving its members to find a new place to break a sweat.Bill and Lori Hoffner, owners of the Aspen Athletic Club (AAC) for the past 23 years, were unable in recent months to secure a new lease with their landlords. As a result, they are closing Monday – two months before their current lease expires.Bill Hoffner said there was no reason economically to continue running the soon-to-be-closed operation during the offseason, and because the 300 to 400 members – as well as the athletic club’s staff – are making the transition to the Aspen Spa & Club, it was good timing.”Just shutting the doors would have been a bad ending,” Hoffner said. “We’re kind of feeling like we are going out with dignity and style.”Until November, Aspen Club owner Michael Fox is allowing AAC members to use his facility at the same rates they paid at Hoffners’ gym. After that, a special group rate will apply to former AAC members.”I think it’s a neat opportunity for their members,” Fox said of Hoffners’ clientele. “I have a feeling it will work out for everyone.”Fox said he expects at least 300 people to transfer to the Aspen Club from the AAC through November. About 60 people have signed onto be long-term members, Fox added.AAC members’ other option is to return to their old facility under a new name – JR’s Gym, which will be operated by John-Robert Barbette. He has had a private fitness training business in town for the past 17 years , and has a studio on the top floor of the Aspen Athletic Club building.Barbette has signed a lease with the building’s New Zealand-based landlords to take over the AAC space. He also recently took over the former Coates, Reid and Waldron real estate office upstairs, located next to his 2,000-foot training studio.All told, Barbette is now responsible for close to 14,000 square feet of work-out space in the building, located at 720 E. Hyman Ave.He has completely renovated the upstairs space, which will serve as a high-end facility for a specific clientele at more expensive rates than what will be offered downstairs, which those members will have access to. Barbette’s existing fitness studio will remain a private workout area for his clients.Barbette will take over the AAC space starting Nov. 1, and is offering discounted rates for people who sign up for memberships before he opens. In January, rates will likely reach $95 a month, and memberships will not require long-term contracts. Those who sign on to be members at JR’s Gym before Sept. 1 will pay the current $85 monthly rate indefinitely, Barbette added. Aspen Chamber Resort Association (ACRA) members will pay $75 a month.”This is up to the members at the end of the day,” Barbette said of current members’ decision to either move to the Aspen Club or go with him.He said he’s not concerned about expanding his business during what is one of the most challenging economic times in generations.”Sometimes you have to use that as an opportunity rather than looking at it as a challenge,” he said, adding for whatever reason, the landlords didn’t want to renew a lease with Hoffner but are willing to financially help remodel both spaces.”The landlord is my partner,” he said about the building improvements.He expects the AAC space to remodeled sometime next year, after he surveys his members to see what they would like.Barbette said he will hire up to 16 new employees for his operation, which is 100 percent financed by him.To celebrate the end of the Aspen Athletic Club’s existence, an all-day celebration will be held today. Past and current employees, as well as members, are invited to attend.”We’re just happy to have had our 23 years and be part of the community,” Hoffner said. “Being around that long in this town is an accomplishment.”Barbette said he thinks there is room for his facility and the Aspen Club.”The Aspen Club and I could have a very different market,” he said. “I think there is room for everybody.”csack@aspentimes.com