DOWNTOWN LOS ANGELES - CrossFit, a burgeoning fitness craze that drives participants to compete against their last performance in the gym, is about to introduce a new kind of competition in Downtown.
This test, however, is strictly business.
Downtown is now home to four licensed CrossFit gyms. In a one-mile radius, there are more CrossFit gyms than there are grocery stores, movie theaters or bookshops. A fifth gym planning to open April 1 is seeking affiliation. Another new facility doesn’t label itself as a CrossFit gym, but it offers a workout based on the same routines.
The gyms are opening as more young customers are drawn to CrossFit’s intense strength and endurance-building regimen. The routine revolves around ever-changing “Workouts of the Day,” or WODs, that incorporate elements of Olympic weight lifting with agility and circuit training. Although only 10 years old, CrossFit has grown rapidly since ESPN started broadcasting the Reebok-sponsored CrossFit Games competition in 2011.
The new arrivals include Cameron Prestwich, who partnered with Matthew Newhouse — both of them are L.A. County Deputy Sheriffs — to open the 9,000-square-foot Trojan CrossFit in the Arts District in November. He’s banking on the trend’s rapid growth and Downtown’s central location.
“It’s more mainstream than you might realize,” said Prestwich. “All you’re going to see is more and more. It’s a big word of mouth thing and CrossFit works.”
It remains to be seen, however, whether Downtown is big enough to support so many CrossFit gyms. There will soon be three gyms alone in the Arts District. Trojan CrossFit is a short walk from The Rec Center CrossFit, a facility at 588 Mateo St., and a block from District 36, which is seeking CrossFit affiliation and plans to open April 1.
The competition doesn’t scare Prestwich, nor does it intimidate Aaron Thieme, who opened CrossFit 213 at 903 S. Hill St. in December.
“There are a lot of gyms in Downtown but it’s a densely populated city,” said Thieme, who said he signed up 55 members in his first two months. “We’ve had members that have changed from another gym in Downtown just because it’s closer.”
If the newcomers to the Downtown CrossFit scene are convinced that there are enough customers to go around, the relative veteran of the area isn’t so sure.
Ronnie Teasdale opened CrossFit Mean Streets at 265 S. Main St. in 2010. In February, he had about 250 members.
“I feel like we’re going to have to compete,” Teasdale said. “Downtown is a growing market so hopefully we can all survive. But we’re all unequal and when there is unequal competition, somebody has to lose and somebody has to win.”
The competition already prompted one group to change their business plan. Last year, the owners of The Brick CrossFit were looking for new members as they built a space in the Medallion apartment complex at Fourth and Main streets, a block from Teasdale’s facility.
Then they abruptly changed course, opting instead to open Krav Maga Unyted, which focuses on the martial art developed by the Israeli Special Forces (it debuted in January). It also offers courses in SpeedX, the gym’s own trademarked regimen that is largely inspired by CrossFit, said Hooman Ghaffari, a partner in Krav Maga Unyted.
“We didn’t think the financials for CrossFit were sustainable,” Ghaffari said. “While the Downtown demographic is perfect for CrossFit, at the end of the day there’s not enough room to sustain all of these businesses.”
Opening a CrossFit gym requires a relatively small investment, in part because the sport uses a limited array of basic equipment. Think pull-up bars, kettle bells and old tractor tires as opposed to treadmills, Nautilus machines and endless rows of dumbbells.
“I think the reason there are so many of the gyms opening is that the barrier to entry is really low,” said Cory Hathaway, assistant manager of the Los Angeles Athletic Club. “All you have to do is basically get a warehouse and $10,000 worth of equipment on the low end and you can be in business, and they’re charging rates that are really high.”
All four Downtown CrossFit gyms charge around $200 per month for unlimited memberships (at $220, CrossFit Mean Streets is the most expensive). The price is well above most large gyms, but Hathaway expects that CrossFit rates will come down, at least locally.
“Eventually the low barrier of entry will catch up to them and the competition will start to drive the rates down,” he said.
Prestwich said it cost about $40,000 to open Trojan CrossFit. Thieme said he spent close to $100,000 at 213 CrossFit, which includes showers to cater to Downtown lawyers and bankers who prefer to work out in the early morning, then head to the office.
In order to include CrossFit in their name, gyms must pay a licensing fee to CrossFit Inc., the 10-year-old Washington, D.C.-based company. To qualify for a license, operators must be certified in CrossFit training. The application process includes an essay.
CrossFit Inc. does not consider an applicant’s location when granting affiliations. In fact, the parent company gives practically no mandatory directions to affiliate gyms, said company spokesman Russell Berger, who stressed that CrossFit is not a franchise.
“Our view is that having a few gyms in close proximity really can’t do anything but incentivize them to improve their product,” Berger said.
Contact Ryan Vaillancourt at email@example.com.
Where to Get Your CrossFit On:
CrossFit Mean Streets
Downtown’s CrossFit veteran, known for tough attitude and paleo power.
265 S. Main St.
Big Arts District space run by two L.A. County Sheriff Deputies.
431 S. Hewitt St.
A South Park gym with a shower, catering to Financial District crowd.
903 S. Hill St.
The Rec Center Crossfit
No frills Arts District gym with emphasis on building community.
588 Mateo St.
Aspiring CrossFit affiliate, with plans to include traditional fitness equipment.
453 Colyton St.
Serious fitness with a self-defense bent, with CrossFit inspired workouts.
334 S. Main St.