Planet Fitness, World Gym Destroyed in Tuscaloosa Tornado


The Planet Fitness and World Gym clubs in Tuscaloosa, AL, were destroyed Wednesday by one of several devastating tornadoes that ripped through the town, the state of Alabama and across the South.

The most severe tornado hit Tuscaloosa at around 5 p.m. local time. A few members of the Planet Fitness took cover in the locker room of the club during the tornado, but no one was hurt, says Planet Fitness spokesperson John Craig.

Planet Fitness sent the following message to the members of the Tuscaloosa club and also posted the message on the company’s Facebook page:

“We are working to rebuild/relocate our Tuscaloosa, AL, gym and will have more details soon. Stay tuned to our website for updates, and feel free to send an e-mail through the ‘Contact Us’ link as well. At this time, member billing will be frozen until we have a facility up and running. Thank you for your patience. Our thoughts are with all of those who have been affected by the devastating storms.”

Another Facebook page shows photos of the damage to the Planet Fitness.

World Gym Chief Operating Officer Helen Rockey confirmed that the World Gym in Tuscaloosa was destroyed but that no members were injured.

The phone line to the Gold’s Gym in Tuscaloosa was down. Dave Reiseman, vice president of communications for Gold’s Gym International, says that the corporate office had not been able to reach the franchisee to see if there were any injuries or damages.

David Leverett, owner of Fitness South in Tuscaloosa, says his club was without power from 6 p.m. Wednesday until 8 a.m. Thursday. Leverett says the most severe tornado ripped through the central part of town, about a mile north of his club in the Hillcrest Center shopping center.

“The city in general is absolutely devastated,” Leverett says. “It’s indescribable. It’s like a bomb went off right where Planet Fitness and World Gym were. It’s hard to fathom. People now are in shock. They’re still pulling bodies out of rubble downtown even as we speak.”

Leverett says he has tried to contact a local church and the American Red Cross to lend support or a place of shelter for displaced victims. Fitness South, which Leverett has owned since its inception in 1997, is a 16,000-square-foot facility that includes locker room facilities and a full-sized basketball court.

Leverett also says he contacted World Gym owner Dan Marlar and is offering non-contract memberships to World Gym members.

“I’m not going to take advantage of this situation,” says Leverett, whose club has more than 1,000 members. “But the fact is, I’m in business, too. I’d be lying if I said I’m not looking forward to getting the new revenue from additional memberships.”

Temple Gym and Tanning 24/7 in nearby Northport, AL, posted a note on its website offering condolences to the club owners who lost their businesses. Temple Gym also is offering a month-to-month membership to those clubs’ displaced members.

Temple Gym owner Shannon Cook estimates that there are 15,000 members between Planet Fitness and World Gym. Cook says he began receiving calls at 6 a.m. Thursday from displaced members who wanted to join his club.

“I tried to figure out a way not to sound like I was trying to make money off of the stuff that happened,” Cook says of his note on the club’s website. “We just wanted to try to help out any way we could and not lock members [into a contract]. We cut our price in half to do that.”

Fitness One, also in Northport, did not suffer damage. The 32,000-square-foot club, which has been in operation since 1989, is offering the use of its locker rooms for members, former members and nonmembers to take showers, manager Linda Keisler says.

“Where there used to be homes, there’s nothing but rubble,” Keisler says.

Northridge Fitness in Tuscaloosa did not suffer damage and is open.

The University of Alabama’s student recreation center in Tuscaloosa also did not have damage. Its website says that students whose off-campus housing was damaged can stay at the rec center.

Late Thursday afternoon, Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley said the death toll in his state had risen to almost 200.

At least 280 people have died in Alabama, Virginia, Kentucky, Tennessee, Mississippi and Georgia due to this week’s storms.

President Barack Obama is expected to tour the storm damage in Alabama on Friday.

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