710 Goodlette Road North, Naples, FL
The Collier Athletic Club in Naples has a new owner.
It is now home to a church.
First Assembly Ministries purchased the social and athletic club off Goodlette-Frank Road this week. The private club, geared toward professionals and families, was founded in 1985.
“The sale closed on Monday. It’s official,” said Bill Cruse, the club’s general manager.
The deed, recorded on the Collier County Clerk’s website, shows a purchase price of $3.18 million.
The asking price for the two-story club, which spans nearly 18,000 square feet, was $3.6 million.
“We were able to do a little better than that. They took a slight haircut. Not as much as we wanted them to, but they took a slight haircut,” said J.D. Mallory, the lead pastor for First Assembly Ministries.
The club remains open, but will close within a few weeks to make way for the church, which will operate under a new name in its new location: Waypoint Community.
The church has been holding Wednesday and Sunday services at the club for two weeks. It has a congregation of 450 to 500 people, Mallory said.
“We are a growing church,” he said. “Even now, we are making strategic plans for how to grow.”
First Assembly faced foreclosure at its old location at 3805 The Lord’s Way, off Collier Boulevard. But the church was able to find another buyer for that 43-acre site and sell its Praise-FM Christian radio station, giving it the ability to purchase the athletic club and a way out of its mortgage mess.
The foreclosure action was filed in August 2009 after the church could no longer afford payments on a $3.2 million construction loan it took out to build its new center of worship. Its financial woes halted construction on the center. The steel beams that rose to the heavens and sat untouched for months were torn down before the property was sold.
First Ministries took out a new loan for its new location. It will spend money on improvements at the athletic club.
“It needs some remodeling, but it doesn’t need a lot,” Mallory said of the club.
First Assembly sold its old location for $5 million on Nov. 10, according to the Collier County Clerk’s website. The buyer is another church, First Baptist Family Church of Marco Island, which also purchased Praise-FM in hopes of expanding its message throughout Southwest Florida.
Like First Assembly, the athletic club had fallen on hard times, Mallory said.
“I know that for a few years financially things haven’t gone too well at the club,” he said. “Even the health clubs and spas are having hard times.”
David Ball, a Naples veterinarian and the athletic club’s president, could not be reached for comment about why the club is closing. Cruse, the general manager, declined to answer any other questions about the sale.
On Thursday afternoon, the club was virtually empty. A few students were practicing tennis on its courts.
When it was founded, the vision for the club was to offer “an outstanding array of amenities for both professionals and families.” Those amenities include a fitness center, two tennis courts, racquet ball courts, a lap pool, locker rooms and a dining hall.
In its early years, the club didn’t have much competition. Today, it’s a different story, with so many other clubs and fitness centers in town.
“It seems like every gated community has their own little spa, pool and tennis courts,” Mallory said.
A bad economy didn’t help the club either. Its success depended on membership dues – dues that more people are giving up to get by in tough times.
“People are being a lot more frugal,” Mallory said.
Naples Realtor Ross McIntosh said he gave up his membership at the athletic club during “the last recession,” 15 years ago.
He said the club has limited fitness offerings, compared to newer gyms and country clubs. With all of the competition, it became more of a “lunch club” for the business crowd.
“Businessmen have a lot of choices for where to have lunch,” McIntosh said. “Why do they need the Collier Athletic Club? When times get tough people start looking around for what they can cut. They ask, “Why do I need a club membership to go some place to have lunch?’”
He still remembers the “really good” black bean soup he used to eat at the club. Back then, the club had hundreds of members, but he’s not sure how many of them are left.
“Things change,” McIntosh said. “Many of those members moved on.”
In these hard times, nobody is embarrassed to use a coupon for a cheap lunch anymore, he said.
“Nobody turns down a coupon for a $5 lunch at Fridays,” he said. “At least not anybody I know.”
The athletic club is a perfect location for the church because it’s central and offers so much for its members, including the pool and tennis courts, Mallory said.
“We had looked at furniture stores, car lots, warehouses, big storefronts,” he said. “To think that we are at this great location right now is really a tremendous blessing.”
The property is already zoned for a church.
Sue Huff, a church member, is happy about the new location.
“We were just so surprised it was for sale and we could buy it,” she said of the Collier Athletic Club. “We are just going to really be in the middle of everything and have big plans.”
A grand opening is planned for January.
The church has an active ministry, with programs to help the poor and the drug-addicted. Those programs will be done off-site and the housing for those programs will not be part of its new campus, Mallory said.
“We don’t run a flop house,” he said. “We don’t run a program where people can just drop in and spend the night. Anyone who is part of our ministry is engaged in our program. It’s a program of life change.”