LA Fitness Takes Over All Chicago Area Bally’s Gyms

CHICAGO (CBS) — If you were a member of any of the 23 Chicago area Bally Total Fitness clubs, your membership has been transferred over to LA Fitness as the gyms change hands.

LA Fitness affiliate Fitness International LLC announced Monday that it was purchasing 171 Bally clubs, including all of those in Illinois.

Bally Total Fitness e-mailed all clients Wednesday night, reporting that Bally ”has made the decision to focus our portfolio of fitness centers in certain key markets,” and gyms not located in those markets have been handed over to LA Fitness.

The deal was valued at $153 million.

The e-mail told clients hat LA Fitness will assume all Bally membership agreements for the affected clubs, and begin collecting membership dues. There was no indication in the e-mail if the transfer in ownership might mean any changes in the terms or rates of memberships.

A representative of LA Fitness was not immediately available for comment Thursday morning.

Chicago-based Bally operated 271 health clubs across the country before the transfer.

The privately held company will continue operating its remaining 100 clubs in the “key markets” it mentioned, which include New York, San Francisco, Houston and Denver according to spokesman Larry Larsen.

As a consequence of the ownership transfer, hundreds of Chicago area Bally employees stood to lose their jobs. Earlier this week, Bally salsa tone instructor Danery Barazza most employees aren’t getting answers about their futures and the future for their members.

Bally has 10 locations within the city limits, including high-profile gyms at the Century Mall, at 2828 N. Clark St. in East Lakeview; downtown at 25 E. Washington St.; at 355 E. Grand Ave. in Streeterville; and in the River City complex at 800 S. Wells St. There are also 13 more locations in the suburbs.

LA Fitness has existing locations in the Heritage at Millennium Park, 55 E. Randolph St., in the South Loop at 1101 S. Canal St., and in the Morgan Park neighborhood, along with 16 suburban locations.

The Chicago area Bally Total Fitness locations were known as the Chicago Health & Racquetball Club before Bally’s took over in the late 1980s.

The Bally chain has struggled in recent years. In 2008 it was charged with fraud after the SEC found that from 1997 to 2003, the company had recognized revenue it didn’t have. Later that year it filed for bankruptcy and closed several clubs. The company emerged from bankruptcy in 2009.

  • LA Fitness Takes Over All Chicago Area Bally’s

    […] site: LA Fitness Takes Over All Chicago Area Bally’s Gyms Bookmark It Hide Sites $$('div.d213').each( function(e) { […]

  • MikeC99

    I re-joined Bally’s in Minnesota just three weeks ago after a 7 year absence in a state with no clubs and they took a good chunk of change for one year in advance (plus the hundreds of dollars of up front money to “purchase” the membership a decade ago). They knew these clubs were going to close when they re-signed me! Now three days ago Bally’s told me at the local club that all Premier memberships would be totally honored by LA Fitness. Today (Dec 1) LA Fitness tells me the Bally’s Premier membership (all clubs nationwide) will not be honored without paying them an additional $20 per month. Why couldn’t Bally’s have refused my money three weeks ago?? The employees at the local club were out hustling bucks as well, signing people up. This is a class action suit waiting to happen by prepaid customers at the 179 clubs they sold throughout the country. Anyone know how to investigate whether a class action has/is being initiated?

    • LIz

      Gee, I signed up for 3 years and paid up front. I liked the idea of being able to go to the nearest club. If they limit me then I will want to join a class action suit.

    • Occupy LA-Ballys

      Camp out at “Occupy LA-Ballys” on Facebook and state your unified thoughts

    • maria alberto

      Let me know if you are starting a lawsuit…I am in.

  • Tossed Member

    Apparently they did NOT buy all of the Bally’s memberships. They only bought the month to month memberships. Apparently they are going to tell the lifetime members to go somewhere else or pay their regular monthly dues.

  • mom

    I just spoke with a LA fitness Rep at a downtown Chicago club and was informed all ongoing memberships will be honored with no increases in dues. However, if you let your membership expire, all bets are off…

  • Takia Washington

    Um I’m glad someone has been able to speak to a representative because for two whole dang days I have been trying unsuccessfully. This does not show LA Fitness in a good light as far as customer service is concerned. I am also paid for three years and too am considering class action suit. Perhaps I wouldn’ have been aggravated to this point if there had been more info instead of surprise surprise here’s an email with absolutely zilch for info oh and if you try to call any of the numbers we give you you won’t get to speak to an actual person.

  • mom

    Quick update…
    OK, I went into a Bally’s club last night to renew my membership before it expires this January. They wanted me to sign up as a new LA fitness member and would issue me a new membership number with a little keychain ID card.

    Be careful to read the waiver they make you sign before using the club. I am a lifetime Bally’s member with locked-in dues for life. They say it’s a simple liability waiver however, I’m skeptical if there are any contract changes regarding dues.

    I suppose I would join a class-action suit. The only thing discouraging about those is each consumer would get $9.00 while the law firm gets million$…

    • Barb

      Write a letter to your attorney general.

    • Johnny

      Then sue them in small claims court. If all members chose to sue them individually, it would possibly put them out of business. Frankly, if you’re going to conspire to steal money from the public, you should be out of business.

  • Jack form LI Bally's

    I Iwas told same thing about my lifetime membership..When my dues are
    up I would pay current rate.Rep at La Fitness says they only bought
    monthly paying memberships.The agreemnet for Life time members only
    covers dues-when dues are up Im ust pay current rate. I’m no lawyer but
    to me an agreement is my contract-which is liftime. This has happened 3
    times to me..First it was Holiday health spa, then Jack LaLanne and finally
    Ballys-each time court has backed us..DON’T SGIN AWAY YOUR LIFETIME

    • Johnny

      DEFINITELY sign NO waivers. Sign NOTHING! Just gather evidence, record calls, write down names and times, then sue them individually.

      A law firm in a class action suit will care even less about your situation.

      But while you’re deciding, it would be a great idea to make formal complaints to all pertinent states attorneys general. If you and Bally are in Illinois, send them a letter. Also, send one to California as well. Bally’s financial theft office is there. And LA Fitness is in the same state.

      Do make complaints on both. Then, sue them dry.


    My family has a lifetime membership also, and I pay a $54 per year maintenance fee from a transfer from my father. I am in Georgia and all of ours were in the purchase too. If there is going to be a class action lawsuit COUNT ME IN!!!! I had a L.A Fitness membership sometime ago and dumped them for good reason. Poor management and bitter employees made the experience with LAF less than remarkable. My Bally’s Premier Plus membership was infinitely better. Now I’m forced back to these rotten people. They even had the nerve to tell me that I will have to pay them extra to use the racquetball courts. Something that was always part of my previous memberships. I say sue them ASAP!!! and COUNT ME IN!!!

    • Barb

      Notify your attorney general.. I wrote a letter to the Illinois Attorney General

  • Bert C.

    I called Bally’s Customer Service this morning and was told I could renew my membership with them. The guy would not give me any info other than their current fees…eventhough they now no longer operate in the Chicagoland area. That’s got to be awkward for them since their corporate headquarters is in Chicago…God I hate them

    • Barb

      I belong to Ballys in Chicago. My dues are tied in for the life of the membership….as long as I remain a member. I sent a letter to the Illinois attorney general’s office today.

  • peter

    I just paid 200 to renew my membership in August. Anyone find out if get refunded? I have no LA fitness in my area as I have moved!!!!

  • Greg Alford

    I too am a Premier Plus member that is being told I will only have a single club membership with LA Fitness unless I pay additional for their national plan. Count me in on any class action lawsuit.

  • mom

    I would like to share some good news for most Bally’s members.
    I just spoke with Craig an LA fitness customer service representative at (949-255-7200).He informed me that my Bally’s contract WILL NOT change. He also confirmed that LA fitness DID NOT purchase any of the Bally’s “lifetime” memberships. He continued to explain to me exactly what a lifetime membership was, as I have forgotten.

    A lifetime membership is a membership purchased (in-full) upfront with no monthly dues or annual renewals. I feel really bad for these folks and suppose they have a cause for action.

    To find out how this accusation affects your membership call LA fitness customer service @ 949-255-7200. Best wishes to everyone and Happy Holidays to all.

    • Occupy LA-Ballys

      Become a member of “Occupy LA-Ballys” on Facebook and state your unified thoughts

      • angie

        I WANT MY MONEY BACK NOW. i PAID IN FULL ON 12-4-11 and now I am having a hard time getting my money back.

  • Aligrl

    I am a lifetime member at Bally’s I bought and paid for my membership in 1995 – It is like a piece of property that I used to be able to buy and sell. I had a premier membership where i could use any facility with daycare included. I went to LA Fitness and they were very uniformed, they had nothing to offer me but aggravation – two people were “helping” me with no answers they kept asking a manager who was literally sitting directly behind me – he would not speak to me directly only to the other workers – they kept giving me misinformation until they spoke to him and then said I could use their clubs for the rest of the month but then i had to use my home club only if i wanted to retain my membership (bally’s) that club has been closed for years so they want me to use another club that is over 35 miles from my house. They said i could use any former bally’s club however they are closing most of them and taking the name off and putting la fitness on? when i inquired as to how i was supposed discern one from the other and the lady actually said “i dont know” great thank you! I paid quite a bit of money for my lifetime membership just to argue with her about whether or not i was a month to month – i mean hello i pay dues monthly yes but i own my membership….the club i visited in an upscale suburb smelled and was laid out badly – the pool was very small and faced outside? where everyone could watch you? Very insensitive and what a blow to people with lifetime memberships if you want you can convert to a month to month with LA? i said why would i want to take something i own and blow it out of my hand like dust for a month to month? Very unprofessional – I am going to send a letter to the attorney general and also see if i can find a lawyer.

    • mom

      Please first determine which type of membership you own. Lifetime memberships DO NOT have monthly or annual dues. These are the only type memberships LA fitness, Inc. did not accuire. Speak directly with an LA fitness rep at (949-255-7200). As you may already know, the local staff at most health clubs are poorly trained and may even deliberately deliver misinformation forcing you to sign a new contract with much higher dues…

blog comments powered by Disqus
Daily Weather Reports Delivered To You!SIGN UP NOW: Get daily weather reports every morning from meteorologist Steve Baskerville!
CBS Sports Radio RoundupGet your latest sports talk from across the country.

Listen Live