. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Western Firms Team To Open Ritzy Gym

Take a short walk through any American city and you'll see more "Nike" and "Gold's Gym" T-shirts than you can count on your well-toned fingers and toes. Now the two corporate icons are teaming up to create a new fitness center in Moscow.

Gold's Gym -- complete with a "Nike Sport Court" featuring volleyball, basketball, and indoor soccer -- will open at the Young Pioneers' Stadium the third week in November.

The club's building is a cavernous former indoor soccer practice pitch which gives Gold's more than 4,300 square meters of space, which the firm plans to fill with the Nike Sport Court, two full-size turf tennis courts, a squash court, more than 90 pieces of workout equipment, a cardio-fitness balcony, an enclosed aerobics room, carpeted locker rooms, a sauna, a steam room and jacuzzi, massage and solarium facilities, a bar and cafe, men's and women's hair salons, a day-care center, a pro shop and a satellite of the American Medical Center. An extra perk of early sign-up for Gold's is a free AMC membership.

Gold's has over 500 locations worldwide, licenced to separate owners, but this will be its first in Eastern Europe. In coming to Moscow, the gym and its local Russian and American owners jump into a market in which the fitness business has enormous room to grow, despite the financial inability of the vast majority of Russians to be customers of such a business.

Natalya Skalenaya, manager of the Moscow Beach Club fitness center, estimates that around 3 percent of Muscovites can afford such clubs, and that therefore there are nearly 300,000 potential candidates for membership. Even limited to the wealthy, she said, the fitness marketplace can bear many more gyms.

However, she argued, increased competition should eventually bring prices down, making Western-style health clubs accessible to a Russian middle class, should such a class come into being.

Skalenaya's Moscow Beach Club costs $1,800 for a standard one-year membership, though, as with other clubs, there are various group plans and discounts.

The health club at the Radisson Slavyanskaya hotel charges $1,645 for an annual unrestricted membership. World Class Fitness Center declined to give precise figures, but recent members said the yearly cost was around $3,000.

Gold's was charging $1,595 for an individual one-year membership as of Wednesday, but club co-director Jake Weinstock stressed that rates will change as Gold's moves on to new phases of pre-opening discounts.

Weinstock said once the club has been open for a time, the ongoing price will settle somewhere between the Radisson and World Class. In addition to offering special group and family rates, Gold's will offer a corporate discount program that grows as the corporate member's staff grows.

The Radisson and World Class have swimming pools, while the others do not.

Andrei Filippov, manager of the Radisson, lamented that more people cannot enjoy the benefits of modernized health centers.

"At these prices only well-off people can excercise," he said. "We have inexpensive 'Soviet' gyms in Moscow, but they're just buildings with destroyed facilities. Everything's very old, it's not very safe, and there's no service at all. It doesn't motivate you. The main purpose of our type of gym is to create an atmosphere of motivation."

Weinstock of Gold's Gym believes there may come a day when this motivation can be shared by more Muscovites. And he believes Gold's Gym is hastening that day.

"The idea is to come in and be competitively priced, to be less expensive than anything that can be compared with us," said Weinstock.

"As more clubs with better facilities spring up, Russians and foreigners will demand more for their money," he added. "People have been paying too much for what's here."