I posted a partial list of reasons why I'm leaving Seattle, my long heart's home over here, and then I thought of another one. This is just one more reason: not because the gym matters so much, though I've gone there (albeit not a frequently as I ought to have done) since the first week I moved here, but because it's indicative of the type of changes--all for the worse, it seems to me--that businesses in the city keep making on both large and small scales.
My Gym Lost its Soul
For ten years, I've been a member of Rain Fitness. It's the most beautiful gym I've ever seen, though, it should be noted, I'm no connoisseur thereof. There are 3/4 length windows looking out over Elliott Bay, past a stand of aspens on a little rounded hilltop that might have been arranged by the Olmsteads. When treading the mill, the weary animal gets a view at least: ferry traffic, seagulls, the play of light on water. Moreover, the machines are fitted with brown leather that accents the gorgeous 100-year old wood floors. I loved it. In the last few years though, they've made a number of changes, all for the worse. To wit:
They bolted the windows shut
I don't know from what sick impulse this decision springs, but it likely has to do with saving a few cents in heating costs (which they have to make up for in electricity costs since now the fans are always on). Remember the sea view I was talking about? That means we used to get sea breezes. There is a reason every health spa used to be built on the ocean: the very air itself is restorative. A tinge of salt, the smell of salmon running, brought a feeling of freshness to a place that might otherwise smell like a gym sock. One day, every opening window in the place was bolted shut. Now we have canned air (there never seems to be enough) and constantly-rotating ceiling fans, that make the place feel dry and irritating to glistening skin.
They got rid of the tanning bed
Some might cheer this decision, since overuse of tanning beds is linked in some specious studies to skin cancer in the leathered elderly, but after a few months of a Seattle winter, 10 minutes in a warm place and a little light therapy went a long way toward spiking the serotonin levels and creating a sense of well-being. One day, it was gone and the space turned into a windowless office, which seems an odd exchange.
They reduced the space by half
I understand about economic downturns and all that, but in a rent-saving move, the gym cut-off an entire room downstairs full of equipment, which was, incidentally, the stuff I used most. Gone the stretching area; gone the chin-up station. Meanwhile, they also dropped the number of classes by about 40%. Now there is one evening class most nights, rather than the bounty we once had.
They built a second location
This would be fine by itself, but they didn't invite us. Isn't the main benefit of having a chain that customers can visit several links thereof? I was thrilled when I heard they were opening another Rain Fitness in South Lake Union, closer to my house, until I heard--had I heard that right?--that members couldn't go to whichever was most convenient, couldn't mix-it-up once in awhile for the sake of variety, but had to attend the gym they signed up in. Surely for a fee? I questioned. Oh yes, but not a small one, like the $5.00 a month it should have been, but for effectively twice the rate, which rather defeats the purpose.
Importantly, most of these awful changes occurred under the original management structure, who deserves the blame, but just last week, as a kind of icing on the putrid cake, they "brought in some investment partners" who have stricken the cool and sensible "Rain Fitness" (we are in Seattle, after all) and dubbed the place "Soul Fitness." What does that even mean? Is it a temple now? Are there lectures in ethics? Gyms are exactly the opposite of "soul." They could have just gone with "Body Fitness," which, if unoriginal, would at least have described the function of the place.
Anyway, it's stupid: the bellicosity of their financial policies, the way the desk people never know whether to greet people coming in or not, the fact that they don't give or rent out towels for people who have to go to work following their session and don't want a wet towel in the car all day.
And it's one of the reasons I'm getting out of here.