It has been perched atop the hill in Berlin between the hospital and the airport, just above Granger Road, for as far back as many of us can remember. In the 1980s it was named Wedgewood, and its focus was on racquet sports, especially tennis. Later, as enthusiasm for tennis and racquetball waned and the fitness movement began to swell, it became First in Fitness.
In 2020, it will transform again, this time into Green Mountain Community Fitness (GMCF), as Nick Petterssen and his wife Cady Hart-Petterssen take the reins from Michael Woodfield, who owned First in Fitness for the past 15 years. The Petterssens founded and have run Green Mountain CrossFit, located next door to First in Fitness, for the past 10 years.
The Petterssens have big plans that include significant physical changes to the facilities. These will be the first major changes since the Wedgewood tennis club was built back in 1976 and a swimming pool was added in 1978.
“We see the First in Fitness acquisition as a huge leap forward in exposing more people in our region to community-based fitness,” said Nick Petterssen. “We will be making significant upgrades to the space and equipment over the coming months and years, and we envision Green Mountain Community Fitness as a locally owned, family-friendly, one-stop-shop for all types of Central Vermonters. Casual exercisers, gym class addicts, competitive outdoor athletes, and everyone in between will be able to find a home at GMCF.”
Although the real estate deal was not closed until this past Friday, January 17, renovations began around Christmas, Petterssen said. A Hot Yoga and Mobility Studio should open in a few weeks, followed by renovation of the locker rooms.
According to Petterssen, when renovations are complete, Green Mountain Community Fitness will offer a completely modernized exercise floor, a fully equipped weight room, a CrossFit area, multiple exercise studios, an extensive array of cardio machines, and an improved pool that will offer both open-swim times and classes. Members will also enjoy access to tennis facilities, locker rooms, saunas, and a hot tub. The new owners are hopeful that complementary businesses will co-locate to the building so it can offer a wider array of services.
Perhaps the biggest change will be to the tennis area. According to Petterssen, to accomplish the transformations the couple foresee, the number of tennis courts will be reduced from four to two. The two courts closest to the main building will be transformed into the fitness area. A mezzanine above the former court area will offer additional space for fitness activities. This will allow the consolidation of fitness activities into one region of the building to promote better use of space and better flow between activities.
Petterssen said that reducing the number of tennis courts was one of the hardest decisions they had to make but one that made sense. “Our decision to reduce the tennis courts from four to two was not taken lightly. It was done out of need,” Petterssen said. “The low-density usage inherent in the tennis activities led to a financial burden that was detrimental to the fitness and aquatic activities in the building, which languished.” As Petterssen explained in a long email to members of the tennis community, it was a burden that was unsustainable, especially in light of the additional pressure exerted by the opening of Planet Fitness in the Berlin Mall, which drew away members.
Another casualty of the renovations is the racquetball courts. The space for those is being repurposed.
A second area of focus will be the pool. In a first pass in improving the pool area, larger windows will be installed to bring in more natural light, and issues with some of the surfaces and lighting will be addressed to create a better environment. The quality of the pool locker rooms will also be improved.
Down the road, the Petterssens envision converting the pool to a salt-water system and adding to it. Salt water is supposedly better on both the body and the environment. “In the long term, we have a vision of a full-fledged aquatic facility modeled after that of the River Valley Club in Lebanon [New Hampshire] and the Swimming Hole in Stowe,” Petterssen said. “We recognize the pent-up demand for a multiple-pool facility that supports two water temperatures: cool water for lap swimming and warmer water for lessons and classes. We also want to add a splash-and-play area for kids,” he said.
Petterssen acknowledges that such an expansion would carry a high price tag, and that Green Mountain Community Fitness would be looking for support from the local municipalities to create a family-friendly facility that serves the needs of the entire Central Vermont area.
“These types of upgrades will take years of planning and fundraising,” Petterssen said, “but we are in this for the long haul and see nothing holding us back from achieving our vision.”