There’s one more place to pump iron or get your spin on in Aspen these days.
After a two-month closure, the former Aspen Athletic Club reopened under a new name and new ownership on Nov. 1. Jean-Robert Barbette opened J.R.’s Gym in the 12,000-square-foot downstairs space of the building at the corner of Hyman and Original. Added to the higher-end facility he’s had and added to for 20 years on the top floor of the building, the Belgian fitness master now controls 16,000 square feet of prime downtown workout space.
“Seventy people were in here on Monday morning, former Aspen Athletic Club members,” Barbette said. “They were all so happy to see each other, to be back.”
Barbette won a lease war earlier this year when building owner CM LLC, represented locally by John Martin, awarded him the lease for the space. Aspen Club and Spa owner Michael Fox had also been negotiating for the space after he and Aspen Athletic Club owner Bill Hoffner merged their businesses, with the Aspen Club buying the Hoffner’s membership list in the process. There were also supposedly negotiations with national chain Gold’s Gym.
The owners went with Barbette, he said, when he offered to take over the upstairs space formerly occupied by real estate firm Coates, Reid and Waldron, which fell victim to the recession. The catch was, he had to take over the Aspen Athletic Club space as well.
But the landlords also share Barbette’s vision, he said, which includes renovating and modernizing the gym spaces bit by bit.
“I told him we need to de-’70s the building,” said Barbette, “and he listened to me.”
To that end, the upstairs gym — still called Jean Robert’s Gym — now has access to a skylight in the middle of the roof via glass windows facing the interior of the building. Large glass windows on the exterior already offer panoramic views in every direction. The locker rooms have been modernized with state-of-the-art lockers. A high-tech stereo system can be adjusted to change the music in different zones. And the entire fleet of workout equipment is brand new, including video-game like stationary bicycles and treadmills with iPod hookups and movie-watching capabilities — representing hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of investment, Barbette said.
Downstairs, in J.R.’s Gym, nothing has changed — yet. When Barbette officially took the lease over on Monday, he didn’t move a single machine, hoping that former Aspen Atheltic Club members would be happy to come back to a familiar place.
“This is the more basic fitness, the more traditional ways people work out,” he said.
But he’s got plans to change the old aerobic room into a warmer and more inviting yoga room by bringing down the extremely high ceiling. Eventually a second floor will be added to double the space for classes.
In the meantime, an ever-expanding roster of classes will be gradually added including ski conditioning, yoga, Pilates, aerobics, spinning and dance.
Another area to be spruced up is the lap pool and hot tub area, plus the two massage rooms. Small changes will be happening through January or so.
Barbette says he has “hundreds” of members already, declining to be more specific than that, and predicts he’ll eventually have 80 percent of the former Aspen Athletic Club’s membership.
Memberships in J.R.’s Gym are now running $75 for Aspen Chamber members and $95 for non-members, while memberships upstairs in Jean Robert’s are $148 across the board. Day passes are available for both facilities, and while upstairs members have access to more classes and will get discounts on massages, downstairs members can add classes in an a la carte fashion. Barbette likens the structure of the memberships to a menu, where “you can start cheap by sitting at the bar” and order extra items according to your budget and taste.
Barbette says he has many more machines than his main competitor, the Aspen Club, and eventually will have more classes. His concept is to focus on fitness and not the extras like spa services and a cafe.
“The whole idea is to have fitness for everyone, not just the rich, or the poor,” he said. “I try to make it simple so people can come in, work out, have fun and be done.”