The Sun Valley Athletic Club, the popular two-story fitness and aquatic center in central Ketchum, is scheduled to permanently close its doors in May.
The club's First Avenue building was recently purchased by a development group called LBJ Partners, which also owns the lot immediately to the south, where Evergreen Restaurant was once located. The club will close on May 31 and is slated to be torn down soon after.
Owned by film producer Tom Rosenberg of Lakeshore Entertainment in Hollywood, the Sun Valley Athletic Club is considered the grand old lady of Wood River Valley fitness centers. The 15,000-square-foot club was built in 1984 and has been a hub of activity ever since.
Bill Koretz, the club's manager and an employee since 1987, is fielding numerous calls and drops-ins by concerned members in his office behind the front desk.
"We are doing our damnedest to work things out for our employees and members," he said.
There are 1,400 members and 75 independent contractors, including trainers, subs and part-timers, associated with the club.
"We can't stress enough the importance of the relationship between the employees, members and club. I can't remember when I wasn't here," Koretz said ruefully.
Some people, such as K.C. Hanes, have been with the club since it opened. Trainers Pete Anderson, Diane Olsen, Patty Daigh and yoga instructor Richard Odom have worked there since the mid-1980s.
Trainer Tener Rogers guides a cycle-and-stretch class with approximately 20 participants who've been together for five years.
"It's the same group. We get our workout and social all in one," she said. "This is so hard."
Bookkeeper and co-manager Ivy Slyke is at the club everyday, as she's been for 21 years. "It's really emotional. The members—we see them everyday. Some people have been coming here for 20 years."
"Why?" Koretz said. "There are several reasons. Mostly it's the financial considerations, and the growing competition in the valley. We're trying to find opportunities for our members to be assimilated into other facilities. The two important entities are the property and the business. The business end did not meet the financial requirements of the property."
Besides the two-floor gym, the club has featured a full-sized pool, Jacuzzi, steam room, sauna and four locker rooms. The club has offered everything from yoga instruction, Footlight Dance Centre classes and workshops to aquatic sports, kids' programs and exercise classes for the Blaine County Senior Center.
"I've been in this building for 21 years," Footlight Dance Center director Hilarie Neely said. Her organization holds classes five days a week, anywhere from two to five classes a day and adult classes.
"When they told us officially on Wednesday, it really hit me," Neely said. "I'm not concerned for the summer. All our workshops can be held at the Community Campus in Hailey. But I don't know what to do in September when I'll need a studio.
"Now I'm looking for a place in Ketchum ... We're just really sad. It's just unfortunate for everyone. The athletic club has been a community player. People don't realize that."
Koretz tried to stay positive. "We're sending a letter to all the members. We're concerned with the family of members and employees. (But) there will be relatively seamless transitions for employees and programs."
In the meantime, some members are weighing their alternatives. Two new large-scale fitness facilities, The Club at Copper Ranch in Hailey and the Wood River Community YMCA in Ketchum, have been approved but have not yet been built.
Ketchum city planners said the Sun Valley Athletic Club parcel does fall under the city's ongoing moratorium on applications to build houses or projects that include first-floor residential units in the city's Community Core zoning district. No application to redevelop the site has been filed, they said.