|Founded||August 25, 1965
Venice Beach, California, U.S.
|Headquarters||Dallas, Texas, U.S.|
Number of locations
|Over 700 (December 2011)|
Gold's Gym International, Inc. is an American chain of international co-ed fitness centers (commonly referred to as gyms) originally started by Joe Gold in Venice Beach, California. Each gym features a wide array of exercise equipment, group exercise classes and personal trainers to assist clients. Its headquarters are in Dallas, Texas.
Joe Gold opened the first Gold's Gym in August 1965, in Venice Beach, California. Dubbed "the Mecca of bodybuilding", it was frequented by Arnold Schwarzenegger and Dave Draper and featured in the docudrama Pumping Iron (1977), which brought attention not only to the gym itself but also to bodybuilding and physique in general. To this day, Gold's is considered a landmark in bodybuilding culture and has achieved cult status.
In 1970, Gold sold the at-the-time failing gym to Bud Danits, an antique dealer, and Dave Saxe, a jeweler. They ran the gym for almost two years, and when they realized it was not feasible for them, they were going to close it and reopen the premises as an antiques shop. They offered it to a gym member, Ken Sprague, who purchased it in late 1971, and Gold's was saved as a gym.
Sprague was the first owner of Gold's to actually sponsor and hold bodybuilding competitions, and his promotional skills and film industry contacts helped build the establishment's profile. By 1975, when George Butler was going to film Pumping Iron, it was Sprague's savvy, telling Butler that he would paint the windows over to minimize back light, and let Butler mount a lighting grid to the inside ceiling that made Gold's Gym the primary location for filming Pumping Iron. After the release of the movie in 1977, and along with the 1977 Mr. America contest and Mr. America Day parade held in Santa Monica, sponsored and conceived of by Sprague, the profile of Gold's gym grew even larger. That year's Mr. America had more press requests than the 1977 Academy Awards. By 1979, when Sprague had sold Gold's Gym, it was the most famous gym in the world.
From 1979 to 1999 (i.e., for 20 years), Gold's Gym was owned by Peter Grymkowski (a Mr. World body building champion) and his partners. After two years of ownership, they moved from the 5500-square-foot facility into a 60,000-square-foot building over a six-year period. Grymkowski's brother became the licensing director, which helped bring the Gold's Gym name from one location to over 540 throughout the U.S. and the world.[when?] The company was one of the first in the health and fitness industry to franchise, starting in 1980.
Today, Gold's Gym claims to be the largest chain of co-ed gyms in the world, with more than 700 locations in 37 U.S. states and Washington, D.C., as well as 20 other countries. In 2016, Gold's Gym' membership numbered approximately three million.
Gold's Gym locations are equipped with cardiovascular and strength training equipment, and offer group exercise classes such as group cycling, pilates, Latin dance, yoga, and stretching through the company's GGX (Gold's Group Exercise) programs. Many gyms also offer basketball courts, swimming pools, and boxing studios.
The company licenses its name to products such as fitness equipment and clothing. The original Gold's Gym logo, a bald weightlifter holding a barbell, was designed in 1973 by professional wrestler Ric Drasin, who was Schwarzenegger's training partner for four years. Notable users of Gold's Gym have included such celebrities as Jessica Alba, Jodie Foster, Morgan Freeman, Dwayne Johnson, Jim Morrison, Keanu Reeves, Hilary Swank, and Tiger Woods, among many others. The original Gold's Gym in Venice Beach is considered a sports landmark by ESPN and is named on its list of the 100 most important sports venues.
Gold's Gym is privately owned. It was acquired from its previous owner, private equity firm Brockway Moran & Partners, by Robert Rowling's TRT Holdings in 2004 for approximately $158 million. Brockway Moran had acquired the company in 1999 for more than $50 million. Corporate headquarters are in the Dallas metropolitan area.
Since Gold's Gym opened its first international location in Canada in 1985, the company has expanded its global franchising program to include nearly 180 international gyms including operations in Russia, India, Australia, Costa Rica, Japan, the United Kingdom, Germany, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Mexico, Peru and the Philippines. In 2009, the company opened its first locations in Spain, Poland and Venezuela.
In 2004, the company introduced the Gold's Gym Fitness Institute to serve as a think tank on critical health and fitness issues. The institute's members includes Ramona Braganza, Robert Reames, Mike Ryan and Eric the Trainer among others.
Gold's Gym operates a national corporate wellness program. Clients include Whole Foods, the U.S. House of Representatives, American Airlines and Exxon Mobil.
In 2004, Gold's Gym became a national fitness sponsor of the American Diabetes Association's Tour de Cure. In 2006 the company became a National Strategic Partner of the American Diabetes Association, the ADA's highest designation for a corporate partner. Since their relationship began, Gold's Gym has raised more than $2.5 million to benefit diabetes research, education and awareness.
Gold's is one of two official health clubs of the AARP, where it offers month-to-month memberships, and is the official health club of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association. Gold's has begun offering online enrollment.
In 2017, the company opened its first facility in Amman, Jordan. At over 150,000 square feet, the club is claimed to be the biggest Gold's Gym in the world.
Numerous customers have reported Gold's Gym franchises of acting in dishonest and unscrupulous ways. They have reported advertised deals' not being honored, billing irregularities, contract terms' being fraudulently altered by sales staff after signing, and problems canceling accounts or relocating. A Gold's Gym in Provo, Utah was successfully sued for fraud in 2006, for changing a contract after it was signed in 1999. In November 2014, this gym along with 16 other gyms in Utah, left the Gold's Gym brand and became part of the newly created VASA Fitness brand.
An accusation of the same conduct of fraud arose again in 2017: on February 10, 2017, the billing processor for the gyms, Paramount Acceptance, and 26 companies under the VASA Fitness name (including new gyms since 2014) were served with a consumer class action lawsuit with numerous causes of action including fraudulent misrepresentation, violations of the Telephone Consumer Protection Act, and violations of the Utah Consumer Sales Practices Act. The plaintiff published the entire complaint.
Like many gyms, some Gold's Gym franchisees lure customers with free sign-up or gift certificates with fabricated nominal values, and then require long-term contracts that are very difficult to exit without paying cancellation fees, and following long and inconvenient procedures (such as having to send a certified letter to their central billing office a month in advance). In the past, gym websites did not give membership rates, and the gyms would usually not tell customers the rate over the phone, asking instead that customers come to the gym to have a tour and discussion, which often included a heavy sales pitch.
Gold's Gym has offered the "Cardio Cinema" since at least 2008. It screens feature-length films on a cinema projector screen which viewers watch while running on treadmills instead of sitting in seats. Gold's Gym has more than 50 cardio cinemas across the U.S.
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