Drury Hotel chain buys Sportsbarn location in downtown Chattanooga

Staff photo by Mike Pare / The entrance to the Sportsbarn's downtown location at 301 Market St. is shown on Dec. 28.
Staff photo by Mike Pare / The entrance to the Sportsbarn's downtown location at 301 Market St. is shown on Dec. 28.

A Missouri-based hotel chain has bought a site that has long held the Sportsbarn fitness club in downtown Chattanooga.

Drury Hotels purchased the 301 Market St. property and a parking garage across the street, and an official said the company is exploring its next steps for the tract.

"Chattanooga has so much appeal to visitors, and this location is close to key points of interest like the Tennessee Aquarium, local restaurants, the Creative Discovery Museum, the riverfront and much more," said Charles Drury III, the company's director of development, in a statement Friday.

Drury said the recent addition of the Steam Logistics headquarters on the opposite side of the block at Market and Fourth streets "changed the whole feel of Market Street, and we want to be part of this direction. We're excited about the possibilities."

Drury Hotels in 2020 purchased a parcel on Shallowford Road near Hamilton Place mall and is planning a Drury Plaza Hotel at that site. Construction will start soon on the 210-room hotel at 7301 Shallowford Road, according to the company.

"Drury Hotels has pursued property in the Chattanooga market for many years, and we really wanted sites that would capture the spirit of Chattanooga and offer memories for our guests for decades to come," Drury said. "We moved forward and purchased property on Shallowford Road in 2020, and continued to keep an eye out for another appealing opportunity."

David Brock, the Sportsbarn's president, said in a telephone interview Friday that Drury is "a really good addition" for downtown. He said Drury will improve a part of the central city that's already appealing to travelers.

"They'll be great corporate partners," Brock said.

He said earlier that plans are to close the downtown fitness club at the end of this month. Brock said the Sportsbarn's locations in Hixson and East Brainerd are to remain open.

Todd Phillips, president of the Chattanooga private equity firm Noon Management, said in an email that his company helped facilitate the transaction.

"We knew Drury Hotels was interested in expanding to downtown, and the Sportsbarn was selling a very appealing location," he said. "We were thrilled to connect both parties. As a developer with deep roots in the Chattanooga region, we can often facilitate a deal that works great for everyone."

The purchase price for the 40,000-square-foot Sportsbarn building and the garage wasn't announced.

The Sportsbarn has operated at the corner of Market and Third streets since 1979. The club was founded by a group led by the late Alex Guerry, who was chief executive of over-the-counter medicine manufacturer Chattem in Chattanooga.

Drury Hotels is a private, family-owned and operated company, and 2o23 marks its 50th year. It operates more than 150 hotels in 26 states.

Brock, whose group purchased the Sportsbarn in 2007, said the club has about 3,500 account holders with roughly 8,000 people using the facilities. But the pandemic hurt the venture like many others, and the downtown center hasn't recovered as the other two locations, he said.

Still, Brock said the real estate downtown is valuable and the buyers recognize that fact.

"The real estate is worth more than the business," the Sportsbarn chief said.

He said that section of downtown has changed through the years as more tourists gravitate to the riverfront district.

"Tourists and business travelers are walking around," Brock said. "It has changed from what it was. That part of town where we are really has evolved."

Contact Mike Pare at mpare@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6318.

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