Alameda's Mariner Square Athletic Club fights to stay open after 40 years in business

A gym owner in Alameda says the state's full reopening planned for next month may come too late for her business.

Mariner Square Athletic Club has been a fixture in the community for 40 years. Owner Kathy Wagner said she's fighting to keep her doors open now after being closed for most of the past year.

The club takes pride in offering a variety of workouts to keep its clients fit.

"I love the family atmosphere working here. You don't have the corporate mumbo jumbo. Everyone knows each other," said Steven Southrey, a CrossFit coach.

But a 10-month long pandemic shutdown has left the owner looking for ways to pull the club out of debt to keep the business afloat.    

"A lot of people are still afraid to come back. A lot of people have created gyms in their own house and their garages," Wagner said.

When she bought the business in 1981, she expanded it from a racquet ball club to a 55,000 square foot facility which includes an indoor pool.

Wagner said before the pandemic, she had 2,500 clients. Now, it's down to 500.

"People, for their physical health and their mental health, need this more than ever," said Elaine Mayer, a member for 20 years who works out here five days a week. 

One personal trainer said he relied on unemployment until he was able to return to work when the gym was allowed to reopen indoors in March, "very difficult at times. But I did the best I could. I'm just grateful to be back at work."

Wagner said she doesn't know if she can hang on until the state reopens for business in June. She said she's five months behind on her mortgage.

"The gyms have been overlooked. We see that restaurants have a package through the government for funding. Airlines have a package for government funding," said Wagner.  

She has converted 12 racquet ball courts into fitness suites where individuals or people within a social bubble can work out together.

She said the suites are sanitized after each use.

Wagner said her club is community-oriented, offering events for older folks and childcare on designated Fridays for couples wanting a night out.

"I will go down fighting. I won't give up easily," Wagner said.  She said she wasn't able to open outdoors because of the gym's location. When she looked into building an outdoor space, she was told it would cost $300,000.

She said she's willing to sell the property the club is located on and lease the building back if that would save Mariner Square Athletic Club. 

Gofundme information.