A £500,000 project to build a gym at Aldershot’s Wellington Shopping Centre will boost the local economy, its manager has said.
Work began in late March to create a 6,000-square foot Anytime Fitness gym in a vacant unit on the basement level of the centre, due to open in early July.
The gym will take in part of the neighbouring Wilkinsons store and will create a 24-hour entrance in Victoria Road, next to the multi-storey car park entrance.
Manager Graham Carter said the national chain was keen to open a branch in the area and Aldershot seemed a “good fit” for the franchise holder, retired soldier Andy Nolan.
“We looked at the area and what it was missing,” Mr Carter said. “There are quite a few gyms but none that offer 24-hour access.
“There are plenty of shift workers in Aldershot who need an all-hours gym that will accommodate them, so we saw an opportunity that would benefit local people.
“It will also improve the look of the centre, as the frontage we’re creating in Victoria Road is just a fire escape at the moment. This will be a facelift for the building.”
Mr Carter said that, as Aldershot prepares to grow significantly thanks to the Wellesley development, the creation of the gym was evidence of serious investment in facilities for its residents.
“This restores faith among people in the community that things are happening in Aldershot, that there is development in the town to match that at Wellesley,” he said.
Mr Carter said other businesses in the Wellington Centre could expect to benefit too.
“We’ll bring more people into the centre, who will be passing other shops on their way,” he said.
“We’ll be looking to create partnerships with other businesses in the centre, and help the Wellington to promote itself more as a destination.”
He said the centre’s manager, London and Cambridge Properties (LCP), had recognised a “fantastic opportunity” with the arrival of the gym to hold more public events there.
LCP’s suffered a setback last month when its plan to build 43 flats on top of the Wellington Centre, above Boots and the multi-storey car park, was rejected by Rushmoor Borough Council for fear of an overbearing appearance.
“They (LCP) want to hold more events to increase the popularity of the centre,” Mr Carter said. “When they do, we will be the first to raise our hands to get involved.
“Our ambition is to become the gym with the biggest membership in Aldershot, but it’s about more than that.
"We want to be an integral part of the community too.”