NEW BERLIN – The latest entry in New Berlin’s growing fitness sector did some heavy lifting to convert a vacant big-box store into something useful.
Vasa Fitness, which unveiled its 60,000-square-foot New Berlin gym in a media-oriented gathering June 1, opens Saturday inside a long-vacant former Pick ‘n Save at 13995 W. National Ave.
The facility is the Utah-based club’s first in Wisconsin and 49th overall, with only a handful in Illinois, making Vasa — a name derived from Latin meaning “vessel,” in this case referring to the human body — a relative newcomer to the region’s fitness industry.
But in New Berlin, it’s the fourth fitness entry in the past three years — all of them along or near National Avenue — following the introduction of the YMCA of Greater Waukesha County’s senior-oriented facility near the City Center, the OAW Indoor Sports Complex on Racine Avenue, and the public-private partnership supporting a city-owned recreation center with Burghardt Sporting Goods.
What’s inside the new club?
The new facility offers a gym that caters inexpensively to all fitness enthusiasts through a broad range of equipment, programs and studios, Vasa representatives said.
Haley McCoy, Vasa’s national brand manager, said New Berlin seems to fit Vasa’s fitness strategy, which builds membership on a low-cost approach: $9.99 monthly for a basic membership, $21.99 for a membership that includes group fitness classes and $39.99 that includes special activity studios.
“There are other gyms around, but we felt like we could make a difference here, not only in our price point and making it an accessible location … but we really want it to be a place where people can hang out and meet friends , she said. “This was a really great location.”
Mindi Bridges, Vasa’s chief marketing officer, said beyond the basic demographic elements, New Berlin was a good fit from a marketing perspective.
“There are no (high-value low-price) competitors in this area,” Bridges said, noting the competition Vasa gets from Planet Fitness in other markets. “So, for us, that’s a competitive advantage.”
Just inside the front door and the spacious lobby, the club’s layout is immediately evident.
Straight ahead is a full circuit of Life Fitness muscle-isolation weight machines. To the left are long rows of aerobic machines and an expansion of core-oriented weight machines, a free-weights area plus green-turfed training areas. This center area is the portion of the gym that is open to those with basic memberships.
Behind walls along the perimeter of the club are the rooms intended for members with additional fitness goals in mind.
The group fitness room, the cycle studio, three-lane pool and sauna, basketball court, water massage lounge and light therapy room are open to those with $21.99 memberships.
The Studio Red Room and Studio Flow infrared yoga room is open to those on the $39.99 plan
A page on Vasa’s website includes a video overview of the New Berlin club and rate and other information, including links to sign up. Bridges said she is anticipating about 2,500 new members by the time the club opens.
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Vasa turned an old Pick ‘n Save into a new gym
For the city of New Berlin, Vasa’s entry offers another physical fitness business, as well as a financial fitness element, for the community.
Gary Szpara, president of the New Berlin Chamber of Commerce and Visitors Bureau, noted in remarks during a June 1 ribbon-cutting ceremony and tour how Vasa invested time and money in transforming a blighted, vacant big-box store into a vibrant gym.
McCoy said the decision to revamp the old Pick ‘n Save was consistent with past additions to Vasa’s approach in other places.
“We’ll usually go into an old grocery store or something (like it), because it has the infrastructure but pretty open on the inside,” she said. “We can make it into what we need, since we don’t need a lot of walls.”
Bridges said the former supermarket on Sunnyslope Road and National Avenue was an ideal site, with substantial useable indoor space, for Vasa.
“There was large pieces of real estate (in New Berlin), which we need,” she said. “We like to be 60,000 square feet, because we like open space, we like enough equipment for everyone to kind of use what they want to use.”
Mayor Dave Ament, for who the past two years has cheered the city’s move toward its new New Berlin Activity & Recreation Centre, which itself celebrated the opening of the first phase on June 4, said it’s something residents will soon appreciate as the doors open.
“New Berlin is very fortunate to be able to offer so many different opportunities for residents to be involved in the many indoor or outdoor sports, fitness and the numerous other activities for all abilities and ages,” Ament said. “These facilities add to the quality of life for everyone, of all abilities, from our youth to seniors. We are pleased that Vasa will be adding to the many options offered here in New Berlin.”
Ament had previously suggested that the city may find itself working in conjunction with private fitness businesses to promote community health. It’s an idea that Vasa officials are open to.
“Vasa has not had conversations about joint ventures with the city, but (Vasa officials) say that they very much look forward to staying in touch with city officials and being part of the fitness community in New Berlin,” said Jaime Cottini, a publicity representative for Vasa.
Contact Jim Riccioli at (262) 446-6635 or email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter at @jariccioli,