KINGSTON – The grind of skates on hardwood, pulse of pop music and buzz of arcade games are gone from the former Roller King, but new sounds soon will fill the former teen entertainment venue: a weightlifter's grunts of effort, a personal trainer's words of encouragement and a massage recipient's groans of relief.
Diane McAliney of Pittston is set to open a new health club, Vive Health and Fitness, inside the former skating rink on Third Avenue sometime later this month.
The hardwood oval rink is gone, but much of the open design of the building is preserved. The main gym floor is a circle of strength-training equipment, with an elevated deck of cardio-training machines, a free weight area, functional training studio, juice bar and other amenities radiating from the center like spokes on a wheel.
One of the club's more unique features is its cycling studio, where exercise bikes stand on tiered, theater-style platforms facing a wall-sized projection screen. Videos of bike rides through downtown Chicago, along the California coast or in the Italian countryside can be projected onto the screen, giving riders a feeling of motion akin to watching an IMAX film, McAliney said.
"I wanted to create an experience, not just a cycling class," McAliney said. "Cycling classes are usually pretty grueling so it gives you some entertainment; something to help you get through it."
McAliney said she began with the idea of opening a cycling studio, and it became the full-service facility it is today because she wanted to offer area residents a personalized and supportive health care experience she felt was lacking in the local market.
"I love fitness," said McAliney, who formerly worked for 18 years in health care performing ultrasounds. "I believe in it passionately and I wanted to share that with as many people as possible."
The club enters an active local gym market. It is roughly 1 mile from Planet Fitness in Edwardsville, Elite Gym in Kingston, the YMCA in Wilkes-Barre and the Jewish Community Center in Wilkes-Barre, and is only a stone's throw from the former grocery store off Third Avenue where the JCC is contemplating moving its facilities. It also joins recently opened facilities serving niche markets, including Hot Yoga in Edwardsville and NEPA CrossFit in Wilkes-Barre.
But McAliney said she doesn't see other gyms as direct competitors because the holistic approach to fitness at the heart of Vive's philosophy is unique in the market.
"I always believed passionately in preventative medicine," McAliney said. "To keep yourself fit; mind, body and spirit to fight against disease in the body."
To that end, Vive will offer a variety of services built around preventive care and the overall wellness of the customer, including nutrition counseling with onsite dieticians, massages from certified massage therapists and a juice bar offering nutritionally balanced juice drinks and smoothies.
McAliney also sees the gym as offering a more personal level of service than others.
McAliney grew up around the retail business – her father, Michael Insalaco, co-owned the Insalaco's chain of grocery stores – and she said she wants customer service to be a hallmark of her fitness club.
"I was always taught customer service, that the customer is always right and to treat people well," she said.
Paul Meshyock, the club's general manager, said service starts with the expertise of Vive's employees. Vive hires only personal trainers with nationally accredited certifications that teach them to work with different sorts of customers with different fitness and lifestyle training needs. Meshyock said the club's 40 staff members were selected from more than 400 applicants after conducting more than 200 interviews.
"The staff is passionate about health and fitness," he said.
The open design of the new facility, where members have a clear view of what other members are doing, also works as a motivator. Floor-to-ceiling windows link an Astroturf-floored group training room with the main gym floor, a design feature with a purpose beyond aesthetics.
"The general public perceives personal training as something they can't do," Meshyock said. "The purpose of having these windows is to show people that there are other members here who can do it, and they can do it, too."
The club's $69 monthly membership fee provides access to all of the gym's facilities, towel service and unlimited group exercise classes, which include Zumba, cycling, Pilates, yoga, aerobic kickboxing and others. An initial 30-minute consultation with a dietician and 45 minutes with a personal trainer are included in new memberships, and the first 200 members to sign up will pay an introductory rate of $59 per month for the first year.
The club occupies a building that has gone mostly unused for years. Open as a skating rink in the 1980s and 90s, the former Roller King also played host to an all-ages club and music concerts in later years.
McAliney and her husband purchased the building last year for $555,000 and have since added four additional rental storefronts totaling 4,000 square feet. The entire 24,000-square-foot space that formerly housed the skating rink is devoted to the exercise gym.
Vive Health and Fitness health club is expected to open by the end of October. For more information, visit www.vivehealthandfitness.com or call 371-3572.