New London owners for a popular Ipswich gym

The former Fitness First in Russell Road, Ipswich has been taken over by Greenwich Leisure Ltd socia

The former Fitness First in Russell Road, Ipswich has been taken over by Greenwich Leisure Ltd social enterprise and is now a Better Gym - Credit: Archant

New social enterprise owners for the Fitness First gym, next to Ipswich Town’s stadium and alongside Suffolk County Council’s Endeavour House

Staff at Better Gym, Bradley Whymark, Darren Wilks and Ryan Harrison

Staff at Better Gym, Bradley Whymark, Darren Wilks and Ryan Harrison - Credit: Archant

It was business as usual for the former Fitness First gym in Ipswich today. with classes and individuals busy in the various rooms, on exercise machines and free weights.

Some signs and branding has already changed to Better Gym and equipment and facilities are being upgraded.

The Ipswich Fitness First gym, is one of nine Fitness First gyms taken over by Greenwich Leisure Ltd, a social enterprise based at the Royal Arsenal, Greenwich, London.

It remains open for business today.

Former Fitness First in Russell Road, Ipswich

Former Fitness First in Russell Road, Ipswich - Credit: Archant


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GLL now runs more than 250 sports and leisure facilities across the country including libraries and the National Sports Centre at Crystal Palace and the Aquatics Centre and multi-use arena of the 2012 Olympic Games at the Olympic Park in east London.

GLL, the leading charitable leisure social enterprise, has completed the acquisition of nine Fitness First gyms, boosting the number of sports and leisure facilities it runs to over 250.

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The latest acquisition comes on top of GLL’s December 2016 takeover of the FitSpace chain of eight health clubs.

The Fitness First gyms purchase crowns a period of strong growth for GLL as it expands its national reach with tennis, swimming, trampolining, climbing – and now affordable, standalone gyms at a time when customer demand remains buoyant.

GLL will run the gyms under its Better Gym brand - showing how a charity incomer in the affordable gym market sector currently dominated by private providers can offer customers something different.

The gyms will now be run in a way that prioritises social value over profit – with an emphasis on increasing participation and maintaining accessibility and affordability to boost health and wellbeing.

Mark Sesnan, MD of GLL said:“The growing network of Better Gyms brings a fresh name to the high street and proves that a charity can compete very successfully with the private sector in leisure.

“Better still, instead of shareholders, it’s our customers that profit from our social enterprise.

“All our surpluses are reinvested into our facilities to help get people of all backgrounds, ages and communities more active, more often, thus helping address some of the deep problems in our society today such as inactivity and child obesity.”

The gyms acquisitions bring the number of affordable Better Gyms to 25. The latest additions include Basildon, Cannock, Ipswich, Mere Green, Portsmouth, Teddington, Harrow, Pinner and Wallsall Wood.

The Better Gyms will reach out to engage the local community through wider access, targeting younger, older and less traditional gym users so more people can benefit from affordable access to high quality and structured physical activity, he added.

Who are Greenwich Leisure Ltd?

Greenwich Leisure Ltd was established in 1993 with headquarters in one of the former Royal Arsenal buildings at Greenwich.

Now GLL is the largest UK-based charitable social enterprise delivering leisure, health and community services.

Under the consumer facing brand Better, the organisation operates more than 250 public sport and leisure centres and 88 libraries in partnership with 50 local councils, public agencies and sporting organisations.

Better leisure facilities already have 42 million visitors a year and have more than 650,000 members.

GLL exists to make community services and spaces better for everyone. In practice, that means investing all profits back into providing quality leisure and fitness facilities for the good of the communities where GLL operates.

Alongside the organisation’s core leisure and library divisions, GLL runs sport and legacy development, health intervention and education, as well as offering the GLL Sports Foundation, one of the largest independent support programmes for talented young athletes in the UK.

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