Saturday, September 8, 2012

Fitness First is Closing in Penang

I learned yesterday that Fitness First at Island Plaza in Penang will be closing as of November 30. I must say that this did not come as a complete shock to me. The combination of management changes at the gym and the raise in rent under new management of Island Plaza I thought would kill Fitness First.

When I first joined Fitness First it was very busy and vibrant. The trainers working there had been employed there for quite some time. But then in the past year they changed the manager and then things went downhill fast. One after another trainer quit, apparently dissatisfied with the management. New ones were hired without any qualifications and only being given a 2 week training course.They then soon quit. Now, at times when I go to the gym there isn't a single trainer on duty. It is very worrisome not to have someone around in case of an accident or heart attack. This situation has been pointed out to certain members of the staff, but they did not seem concerned.

In the past few months I had noticed that there were not as many members as usual. I knew that a number of people had moved to Absolute Fitness, after being dissatisfied with FF. I thought with the closing of Celebrity Fitness in Gurney a number of people from there would end up at FF, but apparently not. The new gym at Straits Quay is attracting some attention, but not a mass exodus of members from FF. Apparently the small size of the gym and the notion of paying a whole year in advance is not too attractive.

Today I was talking with one of the Fitness First staff about the closing. According to her there is a possibility that FF will be taken over by another party and negotiations may be going on currently. I truly hope this does happen. Even with the shortcomings of the gym it was a lot of fun being there. The people at the front desk and most of the trainers were very friendly and helpful. What I would miss most of all are the other members. I have made many friends there and have enjoyed chatting with them every time I went. I would surely miss them. For me and many other retirees and expats the gym was not only a place to keep physically fit, but also a place to socialize and keep our minds active.  I hope that someone else will take over and that most of the staff will be retained. I also hope that when and if the gym is taken over it will be better managed and the new owners will offer some classes geared for the older members, who can't quite keep up with the hip-hop crowd.

Without Fitness First there will be few reasons to visit Island Plaza in the future. For me Fitness First, GNC, Guardian and Cold Storage are the only reasons for visiting the mall. If Fitness First is allowed to close, there probably will be a domino effect and Island Plaza will also become only a memory. With the FF closing the options for me and other senior members, as far as gym membership is concerned, will be severely limited. For me a good gym is just as important as good healthcare. Thanks for everything FF. I hope you can be reborn.


  1. Got my letter today so the closure of FF is certain, 30 Nov as you say. Hopefully they will find another buyer but for me it needs to be a buyer who will a) improve the management there and b) be prepared to invest in the place to upgrade facilities and equipment and carry out some much needed repair and refurbishment. With the Straits Quay gym so close by I think they'll struggle. Absolute Fitness at Heritage Club is OK but I dislike the splitting of weight and cardio equipment over two floors.

  2. That would definitely be a domino effect at Island Plaza. Serves the owners right. The greed of the owners will kill the building

  3. Agree with the observations.

    At Island Plaza, it really seems to be the fault of the mall owners. It is absurd how long it takes for the mall to be refurbished. Cold Storage too must be suffering serious losses, with Tesco having opened up a block further down the road. Now, without the FF crowd, Cold Storage is as good as dead.

    Feel very sorry for all the FF trainers and support staff. They were great. FF has a debt into the hundreds of millions of dollars, and shareholders and banks want to be paid out dividend and rent. Sigh.

    Celebrity Gurney Plaza would be a good alternative but that TOO has been closed down. The new gym at Straits Quay is terrible. The escalator is right in the middle of the gym, which gives it an incredibly cramped feel. FF at Island Plaza was pretty bad, but this one beats it.

  4. Thanks for your great comments Bunga Raya. We will have to wait and see what happens to the gym AND Island Plaza.