New York gym chain has big plans for Denver, but is there enough room for it to bulk up?

New York gym chain has big plans for Denver, but is there enough room for it to bulk up?

A New York City gym chain is looking to get physical in the Denver metro area, aiming to open more than a dozen locations over the next eight years.

One real estate pro who has been doing the heavy lifting in the retail sector in Denver for the last dozen years warns that the fitness market is teetering on the edge of saturation and reusable big-box space — once available all over the place in the metro area — is now hard to come by.

Blink Fitness was launched in Manhattan in 2011. As highlighted in an article from Club Solutions magazine in December, it already has 100 locations with a heavy concentration in the Northeast. Its high-octane growth is aided by its parent company, Equinox Group, which also owns Pure Yoga and indoor cycling brand SoulCycle, which debuted in Denver in 2018.

With the proliferation of low-cost gym chains including Vasa Fitness, Chuze Fitness and Planet Fitness (more than three dozen metro area locations between them), Blink faces plenty of competition, but company leadership likes Blink’s odds to bulk up at a mile high.

“From a demographic perspective, from a density perspective and from a competitive landscape perspective, we believe the Blink will really, really flourish int the Denver market,” said Elie Mansdorf, the company’s vice president of strategic real estate.

Mansdorf describes Blink as “the best of the basics.” Memberships start at $15 for access to a single location with no additional perks, but customers “are getting  a workout that feels like it’s worth a lot more than that.”

Blink employs a franchisee model. The company doesn’t have a local group signed up to launch Denver yet, said Patti Rother, the company’s director of franchise development, but once it does, things could move quickly. The goal, according to a spokeswoman, is 14 locations in the metro with more than 210,000 square feet of combined space.

“We expect to find someone in the summertime to sign on board for Denver,” said Rother, a Boulder County resident. “We always give our franchisees 15 months to open their first locations. So that would mean by the end of 2021.”

The contraction of department stores like Macy’s and the demise of once-ubiquitous big box stores like Toys-R-Us has provided ample space for gyms in Denver over the last handful of years.

But the market for large spaces is getting tight, said Matt Writt, a real estate broker who recently joined the Denver office of Cushman & Wakefield. You can count the number of available spaces of 20,000 square feet or more on one hand.

“Six years ago, there was such an abundance of that sized space, that you could really go to any trade area you liked,” said Writt, who has been working in Denver since 2007.

Blink’s gyms range from 12,000 to 18,000, square feet, smaller than better-known competitors like 24 Hour Fitness. With New York roots, Mansdorf said the chain is also accustomed to contorting to fit into some unique layouts.

Blink has at least one launch location in mind. Mansdorf mentioned an option near a light rail station in Lakewood. Arvada and Aurora are also cities in the company’s sights.

The mid-sized gym market is nearing a saturation point, said Writt, but with strong population growth on the Front Range, “more bodies need more options.” He cautioned that if the economy does head south, gym memberships are often among the first things cut from people’s budgets.

At a time when boutique fitness brands like Orange Theory are taking a bigger bite out of the market, Rother said Blink feels its size, price point and emphasis on room for weight training fit nicely with consumer’s needs.

“Members are less likely to want that one-stop-shop gym,” she said. “And that’s what’s great about Blink, we really focus on being the best at what we’re best at.”

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