With the closing of the area’s largest fitness club last month, hundreds of gym-goers were left scrambling for a place to continue their fitness classes.
Luckily, the owners of Triangle Academy Training and Fitness Center were one step ahead.
Having outgrown their space on Main Street months ago, the group was looking for a new place to expand. They knew they would have to move quickly if they wanted to capture members from the now-defunct Payson Athletic Club.
So a few weeks ago, the Triangle Academy reopened at the former location of the East West Exchange Bookstore off West Longhorn, just northeast of Payson High School.
The expanded space, with more than 3,500 square feet, has enough room for the academy to continue offering the jiu-jitsu, boxing and Muay Thai classes it is known for, and add fitness classes, including cardio kickboxing, cross training, strength training and boot camp.
Many of the same instructors from Payson Athletic Club are teaching the expanded lineup of classes.
JT Watson and Joe Klein, who help run the facility, say it is exciting to see the club grow so quickly after opening in March of last year.
Klein said the idea for the academy grew from professional Mixed Martial Arts fighter Randy Steinke’s garage.
Without a training facility in town, Steinke started training in his garage years ago. Over time, people started showing up wanting to train with Steinke, Watson said. Demand really grew when Mixed Martial Arts fights staring being held in the Tonto Apache gym.
“We saw there was a real interest in town,” Watson said. “Randy would be training 20 kids in his garage.”
In March 2011, Triangle Academy opened on Main Street and within four months had more members than the small space could handle.
The wrestling and jiu-jitsu classes were a hit with men, youth and even women.
Bessie Tucker said she never dreamed she would do mixed martial arts, but found she enjoyed the discipline.
“It gave me a great workout and increased mental strength,” she said. “I have never been challenged that way both mentally and physically in any sport.”
While the academy will continue offering martial arts classes, it hopes to be known as an all-around fitness center with its increased lineup of classes that started April 1.
“Our target audience ranges from 5-year-old children to competitive professional fighters. Mixed Martial Arts training increases cardiovascular health, helps develop unmatched athleticism and builds confidence in those involved.”
Being closer to the high school, the center also hopes to attract more high school students.
“We want to give the kids of Payson something to do that is positive,” Watson said.