Friendly contracts and no gimmicks: How City Fitness landed at the top of Philly’s gym scene

The local chain will open its sixth location in Center City this fall.

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City Fitness / Facebook
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Updated Sept. 18

In 2007, City Fitness Philly opened its first gym in Northern Liberties. A year later, the company reportedly flirted with bankruptcy.

But over the past decade, founder Ken Davies has proven that physique isn’t the only thing capable of improving with time. At the end of September, the fitness studio chain will launch a new flagship — an impressive one.

Encompassing 26,916 square feet, with 30-foot glass windows, HydroMassage beds, state-of-the-art weight lifting and cardio equipment, a coworking space, five group fitness rooms, a functional training area, a floating mezzanine, saunas and a MOM’s Organic Market next door, City Fitness East Market is shaping up to be a wellness junkie’s dream.

After this opening, there will be six locations, spread all over the area, including in neighborhoods like Fishtown, Graduate Hospital, Logan Square, Northern Liberties and South Philadelphia.

Rising above a busy scene

Right now, Philly’s fitness scene is generally bumping. SoulCycle, CorePower Yoga, Orangetheory Fitness and [solidcore] all have sprouted in the city, and Blink Fitness recently expanded from NY to PHL. Sweat Fitness, another rapidly expanding, locally-owned training franchise boasts seven locations throughout the city.

Rumble Boxing, the boutique boxing gym company that Justin Bieber swears by, will be opening a ring soon at 1520 Walnut StreetUnite Fitness, the local cross-training franchise with a signature workout that weaves together HIIT cardio intervals, functional strength training and yoga recovery was voted #38 of “The Best 50 Gyms in America” by Men’s Journal and has nearly a perfect score on Yelp for both of its locations.

With so many high-end gyms and workout fads all over Philly, how has City Fitness risen above the fray?

Per Tom Wingert, VP of marketing, that’s “one hell of a question.”

What City Fitness does best, according to Wingert, is stick to the basics.

The important parts, he said, always come first: clean facilities, ample cutting-edge equipment, non-shady membership contracts, friendly staff and accessibility.

And instead of focusing on the distracting doodads and unnecessary pizzaz that have become trendy — such as “rewarding everyone with beeps and haptic technology for doing what they would have done anyway” — Wingert attested that City Fitness has doubled-down on sparking meaningful interactions between staff and members, and on creating inspirational spaces.

The gym has taken great strides in being attentive to member’s needs. Surveys are sent out every couple of weeks to keep track of compliments, concerns and complaints, and each manager or the assistant manager personally replies to members who respond.

Ultimately, Wingert asserted, that is what gym rats in Philly want.

Community involvement and friendly contracts

Another part of City Fitness’ continued success might be attributed to a strong push for community involvement.

Over the past year, the company has teamed up with Avid Trails to revitalize Point Breeze’s Smith Playground, and also signed onto a two-year partnership with Live Nation to headline Festival Pier.

Next month, instructors will host Commotionan innovating hodgepodge of a concert, dance party, workouts and spin sessions all in one place. All proceeds from the full-body mashup will go to former-Eagle Connor Barwin’s Make The World Better Foundation.

The company also looks for ways to make policies flexible and user-friendly, Wingert said.

You probably know (or have been) that person who was painfully scammed into joining a mediocre gym with recurring payments that come out of left field and a contract that only a Supreme Court justice could wrangle you out of.

Aware of this stereotype, City Fitness Philly does not take an “a la carte” approach to memberships. Most amenities are included, including in the most basic membership that runs for $50/mo (access to four locations and 150 studio classes each week).

The most expensive membership — the “one day you’ll have enough money to afford this” fantasy — includes access to all clubs, WE/FIT programming, all studio classes, a private locker WITH YOUR NAME ON IT, laundry service, a private shower and lounge area and City Fitness swag.That’s $200/mo.

Around 70 percent of members are under the age of 44, Wingert said, but there is “Silver Sneakers” programming available for seniors.

Due to an HVAC-related delay, City Fitness East Market’s soft opening was changed from Sept. 22 to a TBD in October. If you aren’t a member yet, there’s a 30-day trial offer — with no charge and no commitment — to celebrate the launch of the sixth studio.

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