There are at least five places to work out on or near a 4.5-mile stretch of Route 44 though Canton, Simsbury and Avon. Numerous other choices exist in Farmington, Granby, Simsbury and West Hartford.
However, in the mind of Avon's John Evans there is still room for another facility and by mid September he plans to open The Zoo Health Club Franchise in Simsbury Commons, which he feels will offer value and some unique options in a mid-sized facility.
Construction is underway for a 10,000-square-foot space formerly occupied by Eastern Mountain Sports and Cold Stone Creamery. The Zoo will provide weight equipment, an array of cardio machines, personal and group training, a juice bar, tanning, classes and 24-hour access.
Beyond joining and yearly maintenance fees, memberships are offered in tiers. The most expensive at $39.99 per month includes 24-hour access and unlimited classes.
“I believe so strongly it’s the best value for the money anywhere in these towns,” Evans said, adding that family discounts will also be offered.
Evans is also especially excited about two other aspects — the equipment and class offerings.
The facility will carry Precor machines such as treadmills, elliptical machines various stationary bicycles and spinning machines. An “Adaptive Motion Trainer" can be used in many configurations and adapts to individual strides. Screens on the machines will allow customizable, saveable workouts, Internet access and docks, and USB ports for iPods and other devices.
Evans also feels he can offer some unique classes in addition to many staples like yoga, Pilates and spinning. One is the British-flavored boxercise .
“I’m really excited about bringing in new classes people haven’t seen before,” Evans said.
The British influence is no accident as Evans is from London. Having been a semi-pro soccer player, he came to Connecticut approximately five years ago to help coach Major League Soccer Camps. He also ended up meeting his now wife Morgan Hilyard-Evans.
“I was going to take a little extra time to help a mate,” he said. “Before I knew it, I was married.”
Evans, who also has a degree in Sports Development from Liverpool John Moores University, is a personal trainer, and he and his wife started MoJo personal Training, which until recently worked largely in the Waterford, Groton and Mystic areas.
The couple decided to move back to the area to be closer to Morgan’s family in West Hartford and elsewhere after their child, now 4 months, was born.
The move also precipitated Evans’ dream of opening a gym and he began researching locations. Despite the location of other facilities nearby, Evans said he feels the area is far from saturated.
Tyler English, owner of in Canton, agrees.
With more than 80,000 people in the Farmington Valley, English feels there is plenty of room for each facility.
“Each has its own set of tools,” he said. “It just gives people other options. I don’t think that hurts anything.”
Arlene DeMaris of Avon is a client and advocate of in Avon, but she agrees choices are good. She has belonged to six clubs or programs over the past 20 years, generally moving on when one closes.
"I think it's a good thing to have more fitness options in the Valley,” DeMaris said. “People have different preferences and needs, and more facilities mean a better chance of finding a good fit."
DeMaris also feels people are less likely to stay with a fitness program if it's too far from their home, a thought Evans and English said is backed by research, which shows people generally stay with a facility within 15 minutes of home.
Evans is hoping The Zoo will be another popular option.
He cannot legally sign anyone up until the facility is actually open but is taking a limited number of reservations for a special enrollment offer of $10. For information and demonstrations, people can stop by the temporary pre-registration office at the plaza next to Bob’s, generally open from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday through Friday.
More information on the gym and its progress can also be found on its Facebook page.