Public invited to 'train like a Bear' at Vernon Hills fitness center
There is an abundance of cutting-edge equipment at Bears Fit in Vernon Hills, but the big Toledo scale in the immense facility illustrates the pedigree the team wants to share.
This real deal is more than 50 years old and appeared in the 1971 film "Brian's Song" about the late Chicago Bears running back Brian Piccolo.
"We estimate probably 5,000 players stepped on this scale," said Cliff Stein, the team's senior vice president and general counsel.
The working scale and other displays, such as a memorabilia wall with game-worn equipment, authentic player lockers and other touches, represent an "authentic connection" to the team and its history, he added.
But this first-of-a-kind joint venture for the Bears is no museum. Over the past six months, the 45,000-square-foot former Sports Authority store at 155 E. Townline Road -- about four miles from Halas Hall -- has been transformed into an advanced fitness center that's opening for business.
Amenities, including a recovery lounge, boutique-style fitness classes and training on a 40-yard turf field, are fit for the pros.
"Train like a Bear" is the mantra, and visitors might see a former or current player from time to time. So far, 40 alumni have signed up. You can even eat like a Bear from a menu of smoothies like those offered in the cafeteria at Halas Hall.
But professional athletes are not the target audience.
"You don't have to be an athlete, you just have to be someone with an interest in fitness at any level," Stein said. "We can't stress enough -- this is for everyone."
Blue and orange team colors are abundant in the space modeled after the Bears practice facility, which features a mix of history and technology. For example. the names of all 28 Hall of Famers are displayed on the south side, which also features a video wall of 16 46-inch screens.
Thirty-three other TVs are placed throughout the center and members can listen via Wi-Fi on the AudioFetch system.
Besides personal training, offerings include a yoga studio, group fitness classes, saunas and steam rooms, tanning and an interactive kid club. The recovery center sponsored by Advocate Health Care has two cryotherapy chambers, four hydromassage chairs and other features.
Also on site, visitors and Bears fans can buy authentic merchandise at the team's only pro shop outside of Soldier Field.
Bears Fit, at bearsfit.com, is a joint venture with Mark Mastrov, founder and former chairman of 24 Hour Fitness, who has partnered with the Dallas Cowboys and San Francisco 49ers on similar facilities.