Planet Fitness to open in Conway, officials hope it will revitalize shopping center

dbryant@thesunnews.comDecember 23, 2013 

Planet Fitness Conway Construction

CHARLES SLATE — cslate@thesunnews.com Buy Photo

Planet Fitness is used to getting people fit, but can it whip a struggling shopping center into shape?

Officials are hoping so.

Planet Fitness is opening its second Horry County location next month in the Bay Village Shopping Center in Conway, off U.S. 501 across from Conway High School.

It’s the first major tenant to move into the 170,000-square-foot shopping center in years, which officials say could be the start of a revival for a center that, like someone starting a gym workout routine for the first time, longs for the days when it was much more active.

“It’s really a first step in re-establishing Bay Village as the pre-eminent shopping center in Conway,” said Stuart Shamah, an owner of the shopping center. “We are trying to get the ball rolling.”

Crews are working to get Planet Fitness’ new 34,000-square-foot gym open in early January in time to catch the flurry of New Year’s resolutioners aiming to get in shape, but an opening date hasn’t yet been set.

The gym, if it follows the same path as the area’s first Planet Fitness that opened in Myrtle Beach in 2012, will bring lots of traffic to Bay Village, which Shamah hopes will lead to more new stores, restaurants and other tenants moving in.

“Hopefully it won’t be long before we rent out the other ones,” he said. “Nobody wants to be the first to the party. Hopefully the party has started now.”

The last 15 years has been anything but a party for Bay Village. It has lost its major draws, including Wilson’s Supermarket and Wal-Mart, both of which closed in 1998, and Goody’s, which closed in 2002.

The new Planet Fitness in Conway will be similar to the one in Myrtle Beach and have lots of cardio equipment, tanning beds, free weights, showers and other equipment and amenities.

Planet Fitness’ location in Myrtle Beach, off Seaboard Street near Target, has been so popular, it exceeded expectations, said Joe Bernardini, the construction project manager for Planet Fitness. The fitness center in Myrtle Beach, which Bernardini said has between 8,000 and 9,000 members, has between 1,200 and 1,600 people stopping in each day.

“It is amazing, way more than we ever expected,” Bernardini said. “We’ve had great response from it.”

Bernardini said he wasn’t concerned about opening Planet Fitness in a struggling shopping center like Bay Village instead of a more vibrant hub, adding that the gyms have proven in other areas to revitalize centers that needed a little boost.

“You will start seeing every single one of those stores fill up,” Bernardini said. “This is going to help bring it back to what it used to be.”

Contact DAWN BRYANT at 626-0296 or at dbryant@thesunnews.com or follow her at Twitter.com/TSN_dawnbryant.

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