Sudden closure of World Gym in Portland frustrates members
Mar. 17—World Gym, a fitness center at 265 Marginal Way in Portland, closed because of bad weather on Tuesday and never reopened.
Gym-goers began complaining on social media after they went to exercise on Wednesday and found the doors locked.
"This location is currently not operational due to move, relocation and reorganization," read a notice at the entrance. "We are sorry for any 'temporary inconvenience' this may cause our valued members. Covid has taught us that we can get through these interruptions and come out even stronger!"
Over the next few days, at least some members received an email with the same message. By Thursday, equipment was being loaded into storage pods in the parking lot.
There was no information about why the gym was closed, or when and where it might reopen. A second notice posted on the door Friday said a notice with more details would be sent "soon."
Jim Ohannes, a member of World Gym for 12 years, said the situation has been handled poorly. The Portland facility is a franchise of a national chain with over 230 locations, according to its website.
All memberships have been transferred to Workout Anytime, another fitness franchise with two locations in the city, World Gym Portland said in a social media post Thursday night. All memberships will be honored, effective immediately, according to the post. Comments in response were not allowed.
Memberships at World Gym range from $50 to $80. Memberships at Workout Anytime are $14.99 or $24.99, depending on the plan. One social media user said the reassignment or transferring of membership is allowed under the center's member agreement.
Joanne Huntington has been a member of World Gym for 10 years and primarily goes for workout classes. Her instructor told her two weeks ago that all the classes were being canceled, so she immediately decided to cancel her membership — but the process hasn't been easy.
It has involved several emails, a visit to the gym, more emails, phone calls that didn't go through and finally, a call to World Gym's parent company ABC Fitness Solutions. After almost two weeks of red tape and delays, she was just billed again. Her membership is still technically active, but she managed to cancel the autopayment.
"The communication has been terrible," she said. "It's starting to sound like some kind of scam."
When Ohannes found out Wednesday that the gym is moving, he opened a membership at Foley's Fitness Center in Scarborough. He prefers Foley's, he said, but he had previously remained at World Gym because the location was convenient.
Now, he's hoping to get a refund, since he paid for the year in advance. And he's not interested in working out at what he said is an inferior facility while paying more than the cheaper membership is worth.
While there's been no explanation for World Gym's sudden shutdown, tax records show the assessed value of the 2.5-acre property where the business operates shot up in a recent revaluation. The real estate, owned by Diamond Street LLC, was assessed at $2.7 million in 2020. Just two years later, the value was $4.6 million.
Huntington and Ohannes said the gym has struggled with upkeep for a while. Some of Huntington's fitness classmates repeatedly asked the instructor if the gym was planning to close, she said. Equipment would break and not be repaired. The vacuum allegedly broke and wasn't replaced, leaving fist-sized dust bunnies under some of the machines.
Competition in the area is stiff. World Gym is less than a mile from two other workout destinations: Planet Fitness, at 145 Marginal Way, and Orangetheory Fitness, at 23 Marginal Way.
Ohannes wasn't surprised by the closure. Rumors have been circulating for some time, and he said he saw the writing on the wall two weeks ago when trainers were let go. But he expected the gym to stay open until at least the end of the month, he said.
"Everybody's really upset," he said.
Huntington doesn't understand all the secrecy.
"If you're moving, you must know where you're going, so why not share that information?" she said. "They just locked the doors and that was it. It's kind of a case study in how not to manage a business."
World Gym did not respond to questions Friday about the closure, contracts or employees.