OCEAN CITY — An Ocean City health and fitness mainstay announced this week it would be closing its doors after 26 years as a result of structural issues found by the city.
Ocean City Health and Racquet Club owner Gerald Furst proclaimed in a letter to members and the community that he “with great sadness, had no choice but to close” after 26 years in business at the midtown location after city officials found glaring structural problems in the roof of the building and the bank, which now owns the property, opted to chain the doors and change the locks rather than pay for the repairs.
“What has compounded the problem is that we do not own this building anymore,” said Furst in his letter to members. “The bank, Wilmington Trust, has owned the building for the past several months and we have been tenants. Wilmington Trust, as the owner, is responsible for the structure of the building and they have refused to make the repairs. We have offered to pay for the repairs ourselves with several people coming forward to offer help us with the costs. However, Wilmington Trust does not want the liability and they want to close the building.”
Property records from the State of Maryland do in fact list the property owner’s name as WTSFB Properties LLC, and notes “Commercial Loan Recovery” on the information sheet, but it is not known how the property transfer came about and the role it played in the club’s closing.
State records also indicate that the property was transferred from Sixty-First Street Limited to Wilmington Trust Bank on Dec. 1, 2009 for the sum of $4.6 million.
“We had been in negotiations with Wilmington Trust and our intentions were to give everyone adequate notice as to what was happening,” said Furst in his letter. “However, the bank has come and closed our doors with only 24 hours notice. At this time, we are left with no options. My family and I are truly sorry for what has happened and the affect it will have on our community.”
City Engineer Terry McGean said a recent inspection had revealed severe structural problems with the roof of the building and forced the city to close down portions of the building until the bank opted to close it down entirely.
“The structural steel that supports the second floor over the pool and whirlpool areas had severely corroded to the point that in some areas the steel was completely rusted through,” said McGean. “We closed the pool and sauna areas and the entire second floor on March 26. We then allowed certain portions of the second floor to re-open on March 30 after temporary shoring, designed by a local professional engineer had been installed. We notified both the gym owner and the building owner that they had 15 days to submit plans for a permanent repair and 30 days to complete the repairs.”
The property owners’ decision to opt for the club’s closing rather than repairs came as a shock to many of the club’s 25 employees and approximately 1,500 members as doors were chained shut and memberships were essentially frozen in just a day.
Furst’s letter to members seems to indicate that he is hoping to look to another location for the OC Health and Racquet Club.
“It has been because of you, our members and friends that my family and I are going to be looking for another location,” said Furst. “Effective immediately, all memberships will be frozen without further payment and we will keep you posted on our future.”
Other health clubs throughout the area indicated a spike in new memberships as a result of the club closing and many have offered new membership deals to entice the newly homeless fitness enthusiasts.