BERLIN – This time a name change will accompany their new location, but owners of Green Mountain CrossFit are readying to take their burgeoning business to the next level by acquiring the super-sized fitness center next door.
It isn’t a done deal yet, but Nick Pettersen said Monday he and his wife, Cady, expect to acquire First In Fitness on Granger Road in coming weeks. Pettersen predicted the closing will occur before Christmas, paving the way for planned renovations that will lead to a February move and the launch of “Green Mountain Community Fitness.”
Pettersen said the pending sale is the final step in achieving the vision he had when he started Green Mountain CrossFit in Montpelier a decade ago. The business quickly outgrew the converted riverside restaurant and moved to its current location – a converted bowling alley – on Granger Road in Berlin.
That move was nearly nine years ago and saw Pettersen’s business go from leasing less than 2,000 square feet to a renting a full 10,000 square feet.
The common denominator in that business model was leasing – something Pettersen always viewed as an interim step to owning his own facility.
Though he passed on the possibility when he was approached two years ago, Pettersen said he remained intrigued by the prospect of acquiring First In Fitness from long-time owner Michael Woodfield. More recent conversations produced an agreement that will see the 47,000-square-foot Berlin facility change hands.
Pettersen said he couldn’t be happier.
“We saw a great chance to own some property, to be able to find a permanent home for Green Mountain CrossFit … (and) to fit our operations into our original vision,” he explained.
Though that vision initially involved “building a large-scale fitness facility and recreation center that serves all of central Vermont,” Pettersen said “buying one” works, too.
“We see the First In Fitness acquisition as a huge leap forward in exposing more people to community-based fitness in our region,” he said, suggesting Green Mountain Community Fitness (GMCF) will be a locally owned, family friendly, one-stop shop for health conscious central Vermonters.
“Casual exercisers, gym class addicts, competitive outdoor athletes, and everyone in between will be able to find a home at GMCF,” he said.
It will just look a little somewhat different than First In Fitness has for most of it’s 40-plus years.
While Pettersen has a long-term vision of an aquatics center that would require years of planning and municipal buy-in, he’s also got a short-term plan that will involve a mix of cleaning, construction and juggling some uses within the spacious facility.
Part of the plan will involve subleasing more than 8,000 square feet of the space to health, wellness and fitness businesses, like the four that will follow Green Mountain CrossFit when it makes the move next door. That includes a the martial arts group, a massage therapist a canine acupuncturist and a home-birth consultant who collectively occupy roughly 1,500 square feet of Green Mountain CrossFit’s location.
Pettersen said he has some commitments and others have expressed interest in space that will be freed up during the initial round of renovations. He said he’s excited about the prospect of adding an on-premise day care facility and a food service cafe.
“Our goal is to place a lot of services in one location that individuals and families want to use on a daily basis,” Pettersen said.
“We want to make it that ‘third space’ where people are able to come before and after work, with and without their family … and spend an hour or more getting the services they need,” he added.
Initial plans call for draining and cleaning and upgrading the indoor pool that Pettersen views as a regional resource.
“It’s a nice size six-lane pool it just needs some TLC,” he said, noting the hope is to open up the space to more natural lighting, while sprucing up locker rooms that are in need of attention.
Pettersen said the biggest change will involve converting two of four indoor tennis courts into an area that includes exercise studios, an extensive collection of cardio machines and equipment from a gym now located on the first floor of the building.
“A little bit less than half of the tennis barn is going to get a radical overhaul into a nice, state-of-the-art fitness facility focusing more on functional fitness,” he said, noting plans involve constructing a new mezzanine for the cardio machines taking full advantage of the tennis court’s high ceilings.
Two of the tennis courts will remain and Pettersen said he is committed to maximizing their availability for members to play and take lessons.
According to Pettersen, more than half of the facility – 27,000 square feet – is currently dedicated to tennis, which is a largely seasonal use. The change, he said, would still accommodate that important use while centralizing various fitness aspects of the operation.
Work will start after the sale is finalized, and is expected to be completed in February. Pettersen said the targeted upgrades won’t require closing the facility, but will the move from the building next door will wait until it is finished.
“It’ll be a big conga line of equipment moving up the hill,” Pettersen said, joking the move could be a “training opportunity’ for Green Mountain CrossFit’s 300 members.
Woodfield who acquired the well-established Berlin business 15 years ago, said the pending sale to Pettersen and his wife, Cady Hart-Pettersen, was a positive development for all involved.
“I am excited that with the change of ownership this facility will continue to serve the community for many years to come,” he said.
Pettersen said he will focus on immediate upgrades, but has a bigger vision for the facility that is several years and a successful capital campaign away. Creating an aquatics center would be a regional attraction is the logical next step, he said, noting it would respond to interest that has been expressed over the years by residents in Barre, Montpelier and other surrounding communities.
It’s a down-the-road conversation, but Pettersen said he is already thinking about it.
“We have this great resource, it’s centrally located and we would be open to a cooperative approach for creating something even more special in central Vermont,” he said.