Iconic gym loses battle over future

Luke Willmott

Castle Gym in Nottingham – believed to be the oldest gym in the city – is set to close this December following a protracted battle over its future.

Established in 1981, the facility on Castle Boulevard has looked after the health and wellbeing of its members for over 40 years and recently enjoyed a return to pre-pandemic popularity.

However, in August owner Luke Willmott confirmed rumours that the site had been sold by developers who then reneged on initial plans to keep the gym in place.

Now, despite its continued success, Willmott has “reluctantly” announced that the facility will be closing its doors for the last time.

He said: “It is a really sad day. I’ve fought tooth and nail for this gym and we’ve even had membership enquiries increasing during this battle which makes this even more painful but sometimes, you do have to accept that you can’t win them all.

“I have tried every conceivable angle to keep us here and fought for the other tenants during this fiasco but there is only so much you can do and frankly, only so much I can take from a financial, emotional and stress point of view.

“The bit that pains me the most though is that whilst I can feel the impact on my own mental health, I know that a lot of our members and day-users train with us because the gym is hugely beneficial in that respect.

“People see gyms, especially the more ‘raw’ experiences like ours, as a place to build muscle but they are also massive in terms of mental health benefits and their sense of community. That will be missed when we close in December and does worry me. It’s a home from home and a place to grow and improve for so many.”

During the pandemic Willmott attracted controversy and praise in equal measure, at first vowing not to shut the gym as it was so central to the wellbeing and mental health of its members (before closing after reviewing the situation carefully) and then working with local charities to provide thousands of bottles of hand sanistiser to people in need.

He added: “Look, we’re a lot more than a room full of iron. We’re a community. One of our team, Ray, has been working here ever since the gym opened! He knows everyone here and everything about getting and keeping healthy. It is the end of an era here for him and for our members.

“I am now reluctantly focusing on how best to close the gym down as there is a heck of a lot of kit in here but there’s even more stories. That’s what we will all miss the most I think, the people not the plates. I can only apologise that I’ve not been able to save it for them.”

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