When a luxury gym operator bought a giant hole in the ground across from Ikea, it raised the prospects that a failed leftover from Las Vegas’ bubble days would finally be something other than a desert pit.
Months later, the pandemic turned life upside down, sparking huge job losses and other chaos as people stayed home over fears of the outbreak and businesses were forced to go dark.
The proposed health club by Life Time hasn’t started taking shape. But after a year-plus of once-in-a-century turmoil, it’s still on the drawing board, with construction slated to begin next year.
Life Time spokeswoman Natalie Bushaw told me this week that its roughly 15-acre plot at the southeast corner of Sunset Road and Durango Drive “is still a planned Life Time athletic resort destination.”
“As it stands, but of course this could change, we’re planning a construction start sometime next spring with a late 2023 opening,” she added.
According to county documents from early last year, its three-story facility would stand 60 feet tall, span 125,500 square feet, and include weightlifting, indoor and outdoor pools, fitness classes, sport courts, spa and salon services, and more.
Life Time’s site, penciled for a high-rise project during the doomed boom of the mid-2000s, is in a fast-growing part of the valley and sits between its existing locations in Summerlin and Henderson.
Moreover, it isn’t the only project near Ikea that was on the drawing board before the pandemic and is still in the pipeline.
Dapper Companies founder J Dapper said this month that he hopes to get a building permit in the next 60 to 90 days for The Bend, a retail complex on Sunset just west of Durango that would be heavy on food and beverage outlets.
He would immediately start vertical construction after pulling the permits and finish the project’s first phase about 10 months later.
Like countless other sectors, the health club industry has faced turmoil and questions amid the pandemic, given the government-mandated business closures aimed at slowing the spread of COVID-19, capacity restrictions, and mask requirements that also seek to help end the public health crisis but can’t be pleasant for people exercising.
All told, around 6,800 U.S. health clubs had permanently closed by the end of last year after the pandemic hit, an estimated 1.4 million American jobs were lost, and $20.4 billion in revenue vanished, according to the International Health, Racquet & Sportsclub Association.
Bushaw said Life Time has seen “solid consumer demand for our offerings” and is “very pleased as we’ve emerged from the past 17 months.”
It rolled out a $15 digital membership that provides on-demand and live fitness content and opened several facilities this year, she said.
Clark County commissioners approved plans for Life Time’s southwest valley club early last year, after the Minnesota-based fitness chain bought the site for $14 million in the fall of 2019.
The seller, Ireland’s Harcourt Developments, had teamed with a Las Vegas firm in 2006 to build a project there called Sullivan Square. Plans called for residential units, retail and office space, but the massive project, like many others from Las Vegas’ easy-money days, went nowhere.
The developers left a vacant site, part of which is the giant hole in the ground — a glaring reminder of Southern Nevada’s wild real estate boom and devastating crash.
Will the hole be filled? Will the gym industry return to what it once was?
We’ll find out soon enough.