Arne Jackson (centre) stands behind general manager Frankee Bencher and wife Diana Jackson. Anytime Fitness plans to open its Sidney location on Nov. 20 (Wolf Depner/News Staff)

Personal health scare inspires Sidney’s newest gym

Arne Jackson said the scare was a ‘wake-up call’

The irony is not lost on Arne Jackson, as he prepares to open up an Anytime Fitness location in what used to be a convenience store at the corner of Beacon Avenue and Resthaven Drive.

“It’s kind of funny to go from a Slurpee machine to a gym,” he says with a laugh, while surrounded by fitness machines and other equipment in various stages of being unpacked.

Jackson is shooting for a Nov. 20 opening.

He bought the franchise more than a year ago.

“So it has taken some time,” he said. “We have had issues finding property. Sidney is a very difficult place to find property. Originally, we were thinking of Sidney Crossing, which is that new development they were proposing, and then they didn’t go ahead.”

RELATED: Retail development Sidney Crossing cancelled due to construction costs

Jackson eventually reconsidered in favour of a downtown location. “I really wanted something here,” he said. “People can walk here. It was a real priority to make this a community gym.”

Jackson enters the fitness business with more than two decades as owner of the construction company Cougar Pacific Systems and a personal journey along the way. “Between my company and my [three] kids, I thought I didn’t have the time to go to the gym,” he said. “I did, but I told myself I didn’t. I haven’t been consistent with exercise except for the last six years.”

What changed was a health scare at the age of 50 that Jackson described as a “wake-up call” and inspired him to take charge.

“Some people take the doctor-pharmaceutical path, and I decided to go back to the gym,” said Jackson. “So it became a personal thing for me after a few years of being in gym in wanting to improve the lives of people in their 50s before the window closes. It was important for me to have people realize that there is an alternative.”

This focus on older people made Sidney an attractive choice as it is among the oldest communities in British Columbia, with a median age of 58. This said, the community has also been attracting a growing number of families, said Jackson. “There a lot of younger people moving to Sidney,” he said. “It is a community, where there is a mixture of both now. I want a community gym that encompasses everyone — old and young.”

Jackson’s Anytime Fitness franchise in Sidney will be one of more than 5,000 around the world. But if this figure suggests a large, faceless company, the opposite is the case, said Jackson.

“They are a real caring company, which for a large organization, I found unusual,” he said. “They do strive to make sure that their franchise owners get to know their people. It is important that we get to know our customers, our members. Everyone has a story, whether you are a fitness nut or you are brand new to the fitness game. People has a story that is dear to their heart.”


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