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FRIDAY, DECEMBER 8, 2006
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Gym in downtown Decatur closing after roof collapses

By Chris Paschenko
chris@decaturdaily.com 340-2442

The owner of the only commercial gym in downtown Decatur said Thursday she's going out of business, leaving some members wondering where they'll exercise next.

Dawn Hendricks bought the Decatur Athletic Club at 219 Second Ave. S.E. last year.

She said the building is in such disrepair that she can't in good conscience accept the liability.

"The building should be condemned," Hendricks said.

"The roof has caved in and leaks. The floor is falling through upstairs. The gym was standing on one leg anyway, and I was struggling, doing anything I could do just to pay the utility bills.

"When the roof fell in, that was it. Who's going to come in when it's raining inside?"

Sign: Gym closing today

Since seeing a sign posted on the entrance door Monday saying the gym would close its doors today, members have been discussing where they will go now.

Jeff Fussell, who works for the city, said he joined the gym two months ago after signing a 12-month contract.

He said the business was convenient to City Hall and easily accessible on his lunch break.

"When I went in Monday, they said they were refunding the money," Fussell said.

"How will they refund the money? That's a good question, but it's the least of my worries, the $300 and something that I paid. I'm interested in getting back in shape."

Fussell said he had just begun the second six-week portion of his weight-training program and has dropped 10 pounds.

Hendricks said she's working with members who paid in advance.

"I'll have to see what I have to do after the doors close to make sure people are taken care of," Hendricks said. "I'm trying to get them somewhere else. I've dealt with many of them, and most understand what's going on here."

Hendricks recommends that members join Bender's Gym on Wimberly Drive Southwest.

Amanda and Tom Bender own Bender's Gym. Amanda Bender said she could only accommodate the athletic club's members who agree to sign a new contract.

"She's (Hendricks) not giving us any money, but we're trying to take care of the people and get them somewhere," Amanda Bender said.

"The prices are higher, but we're a good gym for the members. We can't take them all for free, because that's a huge influx of members. Legally, we're not responsible for her. We're not responsible for any of her contracts."

Hendricks told The Decatur Daily in 2005 that she had 300 members. How many remained this week wasn't immediately known.

Some members were Decatur police officers. Lt. Chris Mathews, a police spokesman, said Thursday about 10 officers used the athletic club.

"They signed up for it at a rate of $22 per month," Mathews said.

"If the officer attended eight times per month, the city paid half of it. Ten went on a regular basis. It will be a loss to them. Some of the officers who work out at other gyms are working to get the same type of deal with those gyms."

Building owner

Byron Vann, owner of the athletic club building, said he ran the business since 1986.

"I'm not going to let it shut them out," Vann said. "She (Hendricks) just leased the building. I'll probably open the doors. I don't think it's right to dump everyone out on the street."

Is the athletic club structurally sound?

Jimmy Brothers, director of the city's Building Department, said Thursday he couldn't recall his department inspecting the athletic club in his 17 years with the department.

The club obtained a roofing permit Oct. 25.

Brothers said the Community Development Department investigates unsafe structures. A call placed Thursday afternoon to Community Development wasn't immediately returned.

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