Is this $35M oceanfront gym the coolest place to work out in San Diego?


Selling a day at the beach, San Diego-based FIT Athletic opened its newest health club Thursday, Aug. 1 just steps from the sand on the Mission Beach Boardwalk.

The 50,000 square-foot facility features a host of amenities such as spa-like locker rooms and a wealth of fancy equipment — all to be expected in a luxury exercise environment. Really, though, its best asset is the ocean, its natural beauty and breezes easily accessible on all three floors — especially so on the rooftop deck where the beach and boardwalk are on full display whether one wants to push a weighted sled or not.

FIT, then, hopes to create a vibe, more so than a venue, that appeals to locals who like to sweat — or just sit — in style. Should the gym live up to the potential envisioned by owner Scott Lutwak, it should attract out-of-towners who must cross it off their visitor to-do list.

FIT Athletic operates four San Diego area clubs, with a fifth location scheduled to open in Little Italy on Sept. 1. The local brand has just shy of 12,000 members and competes with upscale facilities such as New York-based Equinox. The Mission Beach facility, located within Belmont Park, charges $115 per month for a single-club membership and $30 for day passes. The club also sells a $129 monthly membership that provides access to all FIT facilities in town.

“Our vision is to put this fitness center on the map for anybody who’s coming to San Diego that’s of the fitness mind,” Lutwak said. For gym junkies, that means his new facility should rank on the same level as the area’s theme parks, Legoland and SeaWorld.

It’s a tall order. The local proprietor has, however, pumped north of $35 million into FIT Mission Beach to turn it into an all-day destination, making it the most expensive venture of his gym-building career, which started with a facility in Houston, TX. in 2005.

“We believe people are going to come here for three or four hours,” Lutwak said.

Lutwak, who has been working to make this project a reality for around seven years, has on his side an eye-catching home that’s equal parts old and new.

The gym is the primary tenant in the all-new glass and aluminum building that houses the historic recreation of the Plunge swimming pool at Belmont Park. FIT operates the famous pool, which opened to the public on July 4, meaning gym members get access to the 400,000-gallon indoor attraction. They can even lounge, presumably post-workout, on an adjacent, indoor-outdoor platform referred to as the VIP deck, where food and adult beverage service is provided by the Beach House restaurant.

Additionally, the building features floor-to-ceiling windows that face the ocean. And the yoga studio, where the supersized windows open to the outside world, could turn out to be a favorite place for catching sunsets.

Lutwak has also secured beach rights, which allows his trainers to host workout sessions on the sand. Alternatively, members can eventually opt to use the club’s exclusive beach chaises and umbrellas. That perk is still in the works, although supplies have been ordered, Lutwak said.

If there’s a downside, it’s that gym-goers won’t have priority parking. They’ll have to share the onsite Mission Beach lots that are open to the public and often full during peak beach hours.