By Mike Pare
Deputy Business Editor
After nearly three decades, one of downtown Chattanooga's best known landmarks is changing hands.
The Sports Barn on Market Street, along with its locations in East Brainerd and Hixson, were sold Friday to a local group headed by businessman David Brock.
"We've got a group that will bring it to a new level and bring new energy to it. We really want to focus on members and put resources into giving them the best experience," said Mr. Brock.
Chattanooga businessman Pem Guerry, whose father Alex Guerry founded the fitness center in 1979 with a group of investors and was its president for the past eight years, said his family has "a longtime love" for the Sports Barn.
"I'm really excited for the new owners," he said. "I think they'll take it to the next level."
Mr. Brock said the new ownership group has eight major partners including George Bright, Frank Cowden, Tom Jones and Robby Jones. He declined to reveal the sales price.
Mr. Brock, a member of the family that had owned Brock Candy Co., said there are additions the group wants to make to take advantage of industry trends.
"We want to bring in climbing walls," he said. "We've been pricing that."
The group's managing partner said that while he is happy with the Sports Barn's existing sites, there may be opportunities to go into other areas.
"North Georgia is a definite possibility," Mr. Brock said.
Staff Photo by Tim Barber
John Baldwin slows down to cool off in front of the Sports Barn after an afternoon run on the streets of Chattanooga. The Sports Barn has been sold.
Still, Mr. Brock said the downtown location is the flagship for the business, and he welcomed the sight of central city residents moving into new housing in the area.
Mr. Guerry said the downtown Sports Barn was one of the first projects to help reinvigorate the city's core along with the Tennessee Aquarium, Big River Grille and Southside Grill.
The businesses brought traffic and credibility for the redevelopment of downtown, he said.
Mr. Guerry said that basically the same ownership group had held the fitness club since 1979 when they invested $1 million.
"The health club industry has really evolved a lot over time," he said. "You always have to reinvest and keep it fresh."
E-mail Mike Pare at firstname.lastname@example.org