Bears-themed fitness center proposed in Vernon Hills
A Chicago Bears-themed fitness facility planned for an empty big box store in Vernon Hills would let members train like pros, with the possibility a current or former player might join them.
Bears Fit, proposed for the former Sports Authority building at 155 E. Townline Road (Route 60), also would draw consumers who would eat and shop in the area, supporters say.
The proposal is a joint venture of an entity owned by Mark Mastrov, founder of 24 Hour Fitness and co-owner of the Sacramento Kings, and Monsters of the Midway LLC, owned by the Bears. It would be the first Bears-themed fitness facility and the third NFL-themed club in the U.S., joining the Dallas Cowboys and San Francisco 49ers.
"This isn't a licensing opportunity. This is something we're fully vested in," Cliff Stein, Bears senior vice president and general counsel, informed the Vernon Hills village board Tuesday.
"We are an iconic brand rich in history. We bring that to your community," Stein said. "Regardless of our record the past few years, this is a Bears town."
Stein described Mastrov as a "fitness center industry leader" who will be a 50-50 partner in the "new and revolutionary idea" for the 45,400-square-foot space that's sat vacant for 18 months.
Bears Fit is proposed as a state-of-the-art facility using many pieces of fitness and recovery equipment not available at other health or fitness facilities. It would also incorporate exercise, sports science, recovery and nutrition programs used by the Bears.
Stein said although "another level of expertise" would be involved in the venture, the facility is not intended only for athletes or football players.
"Bears Fit is for everyone," he said.
General membership would be reasonably priced, he said, with other fee-based services such as personal training available. Bears merchandise would be sold in a small section of the facility.
The goal is to create a "fan engagement experience" for Bears fans and others involving Bears players or alumni, such as Clyde Emrich, strength coach of the 1985 Super Bowl champions.
"He's excited to come in," Stein said. "We have alumni all over the Chicagoland area, a lot in this area. We've already tapped into them."
Vernon Hills is perennially at or near the top in retail sales among Lake County communities and has been battling to stay there as internet sales erode activity at brick-and-mortar locations and stores continue to close. Information provided to the village board showed sales at Sports Authority dropped 51 percent over the five years before it closed.
Village officials last June gave similar approval to allow Sky Zone trampoline park and Lil' Kickers indoor soccer to occupy the former Gordmans space in the Rivertree shopping center.
Bears Fit would become a destination for consumers who would boost other village businesses, according to the company's application to the village.
Village trustees informally approved the measure in advance of an official vote Feb. 6.