Last month, O2 Fitness closed its flagship Wilmington gym in Mayfaire, then earlier this month, shut the doors at its Porters Neck location for good.
Around 2018, the company had five separate locations operating in Wilmington and roughly 15,000 members. Now, it’s down to just two locations but is planning to open a third within the next couple of years.
Mayfaire’s 1,900 members and Porters Neck’s 1,100 have been upgraded to all-access memberships and will keep their same rate, according to a company official.
The recent closures are part of an overall pivot for the Raleigh-based fitness company, which is in the midst of trimming fat to make room for expansions and new footprints that more closely align with O2’s evolving vision.
“The clubs that were closing right now are all undersized,” said O2’s vice president, Justin Mascho. “We just can't do what we want to do in 10,000 square feet.”
O2 was the first tenant at 980 Town Center Drive when it opened in 2005. In February, the fitness center finished out its latest lease, and after considering doubling the Mayfaire footprint into the adjacent parking lot, opted to close the location after 17 years. Mayfaire was O2’s first foray outside the Triangle and the fitness center’s first presence in Wilmington.
“There was a sentimental piece to it,” Mascho said of the closure. “And that made it difficult. But at the end of the day, it's what's best for our members and what's best for the company overall, to move in this new direction.”
Mayfaire’s leasing manager, Paige Coniglio, said the shopping center is working with a number of potential tenants to fill the space, but no lease has been signed yet.
On March 6, O2 closed its Porters Neck location, at 7979 Market St.
O2 took over this space in a 2017 deal when it acquired three Gold’s Gym locations. It operated 4310 Shipyard Blvd. in Long Leaf Mall for a year before offloading that location and has put extensive renovations into 200 Racine Drive in recent years, including a new outdoor turf area.
Within the next month or so, O2 will begin extensive renovations at the second location the fitness center launched in Wilmington in Hanover Center, which opened in 2014 at 1315 Independence Blvd. With close to 5,000 members, the upcoming Hanover Center renovations may result in intermittent weekend closures. “We're going to do that renovation with as little disturbance as possible,” Mascho said.
By the end of the year, the company anticipates closing on land in an “up-and-coming fast-growing part of the greater Wilmington area,” Mascho said, with plans to open a new sprawling fitness center in 2024.
“It's no secret that COVID was extremely difficult on the health and fitness industry,” Mascho said. “What that did was it allowed us – and forced us, frankly – to really dial in what our business looks like and where we want to focus."
O2 is making moves to capitalize on a trend accelerated and cemented by the pandemic, whereby gym users are seeking a more customizable and holistic experience.
“Everything we're doing right now is: How do we provide the best possible member experience?” Mascho said.
That experience includes large functional training areas and group exercise, mind-body and cycling studios. “We're really seeing a huge push towards functional training and so being able to provide more platforms and rigs and space for people to do more creative exercises on their own with additional floor space is what we need.”
In May 2021, O2 launched a new company, Renew Physiotherapy, which provides on-site physical therapy. The venture allows physical therapists the chance to collaborate with physical trainers for a holistic healing experience for gym members. There are now 20 physical therapists across 14 O2 locations, including one at Racine Drive and two at Hanover Center. O2 is also looking into more recovery options, including cryotherapy and infrared treatment, as it continues its transition.
O2 has 18 locations companywide in the Carolinas – soon to be 17 following the scheduled closure of its Brennan Station location in Raleigh this week. That’s down from the 23 it had running in 2017. More closures could follow as a couple of leases wind up in the Triangle area, Mascho said, as O2 continues its reevaluation process.
However, the number of locations is slated to grow: O2 is under contract to open three new locations in the Triangle, Triad and in South Carolina. It opened its newest locations in High Point and Durham in April 2021 and September 2020.
“Our most successful clubs have been purpose-built O2s,” Mascho said. “We are for the most part staying away from acquisitions unless the opportunity is right for what we're trying to accomplish.”
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