The last day the Santa Monica Fire Department was at TRIFIT after it sponsored their memberships while the department was torn down. COURTESY PHOTO

City of Santa Monica to remove TRIFIT’s outdoor fitness facility

By Pat Mellon

The City of Santa Monica is locked in a battle with TRIFIT LA over the use of one of the City’s tennis courts for an outdoor annex of the gym.

For over 17 years, the indoor 29,000-square-foot facility has enjoyed its cozy location on Colorado Avenue between 24th and 26th, nestled among tech giants and heavy-hitters like Hulu and Oracle, offering members everything from spin to swims to saunas to squash.

When COVID-19 came to town and such indoor businesses became a health concern, however, gyms were among the lengthy list of places that were forced to close until the then-unclear risks of being near others was determined. Several half-capacity and social distancing experiments later, the world is only slightly less scary in late 2021, with a number of people opting to refrain from the risk of indoor activities altogether.

And while restaurants negotiated with city leaders to add sidewalk dining for their customers in order to reverse what was quickly becoming a devastating loss of revenue, the owners at TRIFIT had the idea to move part of the gym outside so members could still exercise without the worry of indoor health risks or violating the rigid rules that the pandemic brought with it.

It wasn’t that long ago that everything from grocery stores and pharmacies to donut shops were shuttered while the scientists and policy-shapers decided how commerce could function without endangering the public in the wake of the virus’ erratic and speedy trek across the globe.

In May 2020, after months of deserted freeways, empty sidewalks and barren stores, it was suggested that outdoor businesses were safe to reopen. As early as June 2020, it was believed that the virus could be spread inside among people in close proximity to each other, breathing heavily perhaps, often sweating on surfaces – essentially the blueprint for any gym.

But as luck would have it, TRIFIT manages two tennis courts in its business complex, about 150 yards from the gym’s doors, and the gym handles all public use of the courts per an agreement the City signed with building developers 40-plus years ago when the Colorado Center was built at 2425, according to gym owner, Bernard Baski. Nothing if not resourceful, Baski hatched a plan.

“We decided to designate one court for tennis pros, and one court for the public,” Baski said, adding that only one court is being used for TRIFIT, and that the other is used for pros and public sign-ups.
Fitness training and classes started on the tennis courts in July 2020 and for the first four months, the classes were free and open to the public on a donation basis.

“We had an outpouring of communication from our members,” Baski said. “They were desperate to work out in an organized, safe and structured way, so the City and the property owner agreed to let TRIFIT use the West court for an outdoor gym beginning November 2020, while the East court would be jointly open for the public and for private coaching by reservation.”

Apparently, it was that very dynamic that started the conflict.

“A complaint came to a City Council member from a tennis pro claiming that TRIFIT is privatizing the courts,” according to Baski. “The irony is that currently, the East court is being dominated by that same tennis pro [who] is charging $120/hour per lesson. This is privatizing the courts to few members of the community [who] can afford the luxury of private lessons.”

Conversely, TRIFIT has 1,200 members who are benefitting from the outdoor gym, according to Baski, who added that he’d be happy to work with the City to reach some sort of an accord.

“We have proposed offering the outdoor gym on the courts to City first responders for free, and we have suggested keeping the other court open to the community solely for open play, no private coaching,” Baski said. “A joint resolution is what we want.”

Initially, TRIFIT was told to vacate the tennis court by the end of September, and that was amended to the end of December 2021. Baski said he appreciated the extra time, but “[the] decision was made before the spike in Delta, and much to our disappointment, it was not changed,” he added, hinting that he thought the clock to vacate should have been restarted. “The health and safety of our members and staff has always remained paramount, and our top priority. Many of our members are still wary of working out indoors with a mask on, many more are older, or have pre-existing conditions, cancer, are immunocompromised and simply do not feel safe indoors.”

For the most part, the City has been somewhat accommodating. Constance Farrell, public information officer for The City of Santa Monica, said that the City has been cooperative since negotiations for the outdoor space began.

“Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, the City of Santa Monica has found flexible and low-cost ways for businesses to operate outdoors,” Farrell said. “We appreciate that gym members have valued TRIFIT’s outdoor space. We extended the amount of time for the court to remain offline for public tennis use until the end of 2021 in order to provide time for [Colorado Center landlord] Boston properties and the gym to identify a new interim outdoor area for its classes. This is primarily a landlord/tenant matter. The temporary use will expire at the end of the year to return the storage to its intended access by all.”

Baski doesn’t disagree that there are a lot of moving parts in terms of who can do what and whose permission is needed. But he is hoping for a meeting of the minds.

“The city and our landlord have always been supportive of TRIFIT and small business, and Santa Monica champions small business like few cities do,” Baskin said. “The community is communicating how important this issue is to them and we want the City to understand that.”

For now, the days are ticking away with the looming deadline, ironically on the eve of the day when most people vow to exercise more often, slightly less than a month out. While the City weighs the complaint against the benefits of TRIFIT ‘s healthy outdoor alternative, it must also take into consideration how the removal of the outdoor gym setting will sit with the gym’s members, many of whom live in Santa Monica – a town that, in 2019 and 2020, named TRIFIT Santa Monica’s Most Loved Gym.

2425 Colorado Ave., B100, Santa Monica
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