Planet Fitness to open in former downtown Borders location

Borders
The old downtown Borders location is set to become a 24-hour Planet Fitness location. Photo by Amanda Frank

Fitness fanatics are in luck. Plans are underway to turn the vacant location of the former Borders bookstore at the Shops of Grand Avenue into a 24-hour Planet Fitness.

According to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, the facility is set to open by December.

Planet Fitness has been in Wisconsin only four years but has been a nationwide chain for 19 years. According to its website, the gym prides itself on being judgement-free and a place where “members have fun without being subjected to the hard-core ‘look at me’ attitude that exists in too many gyms.”

With a new fitness center downtown, the possibility of competition between it and other centers, including Marquette’s, is a possibility.

But John Sweeney, director of the department for recreational sports at Marquette, does not see that as being a problem for the university.

“I don’t think it will (harm Rec Center traffic),” Sweeney said. “That’s not to say there won’t be Marquette students who won’t join.”

He said attendance at the Rec Center and Rec Plex has been very good lately, and there is at times even a struggle regarding overcrowding.

“There’s no drop off in attendance, even in the winter months,” Sweeney said.

He did, however, say there are specific draws to both Marquette’s rec centers and the impending Planet Fitness.

“Planet Fitness may just be fitness for cardio and weight,” Sweeney said. “We have intramural sports, and group exercise is popular with students … none of that will be taken away.”

Sweeney pointed out that other centers, like the Milwaukee Bally and YMCA, have coexisted with Marquette’s rec centers for a number of years without a change in user numbers.

“They haven’t had an impact on us,” Sweeney said. “We do a good job serving the Marquette community’s recreational needs.”

Students agree, but take several factors into account including price, public transportation and safety.

Planet Fitness has two pricing options: $10 per month or $19.99 per month. The latter provides guest privileges and half off all cooler drinks.

Kelechi Nwabara, a junior in the College of Arts & Sciences, said she would go to the Rec Center because it is free, but a 24-hour gym would be nice.

Despite the 24-hour advantage, some said they would be uncomfortable going to work out downtown at night.

“I wouldn’t walk there at 2 a.m., but if LIMOs went there I’d consider it,” said Shaunise Pierce, a junior in the College of Arts & Sciences.

The YMCA of Metropolitan Milwaukee, located further west in Grand Avenue, is in close proximity to the Planet Fitness. However, Bob Heger, chief operating officer of the YMCA, doesn’t consider the Planet Fitness a threat.

“At the Y, it is encouraging when anyone takes a step toward better health, but we don’t see health clubs as competition,” Heger said. “We encourage everyone to find the best path to a healthy lifestyle.”

He added that the YMCA’s offerings go beyond sweating it out and eating right.

“Not only do our members and participants look to the Y for their health, wellness and family needs, but they also give back to the community through donations and volunteerism,” Heger said. “We are a community – both within our buildings and what our members and staff take out into their neighborhoods.”