Luckily with my absence the kind folks at EliteFts didn't turn off my log and kick me to the curb. Dave is very familiar with my insanity fueled psychosis when I am all in. So, thanks for not cutting me off yet. It has been a journey moving the gym and getting it open.
Instead of getting my lumps throughout the whole term of the project, we got them all in the last three months. As anyone who has built or dealt with a builder/contractor on anything can attest, there are always ALOT of ups and downs, “WTF’”s and just plain- “you gotta be shitting me”. You and yours versus the construction company with the city, county and state bastards mediating and delaying your fights.
We were slated to move in around Thanksgiving but the special LED lighting that was coming out of California was on back order for 6 weeks. I personally believe they waited too late to order them. I left a lot to the designers and builder weighing in only when things became too much for me to take. The lights were one of those things. When they told me they were on backorder and that the company only made a couple of runs a year (I know BS there too), I thought they must be really cool and different than most lights out there. Most of my space has a different look so again, I thought something special for me was a brewing. When they finally arrived, they were plain white LED lights. Zero special or coolness factors. Luckily, they are very high up and put out a crap ton of light, otherwise I might think them high school gymnasium lighting.
My next date, which was sworn to happen more than the first time, was in mid-December. As we got close to that date the construction company starting to waiver and waffle some tippy toeing around the date. They were acting sketchy, so I postponed the move until the day after Christmas. A few weeks before this time, the construction company had begun to avoid answering my questions about switching a few things around. The things I was asking for were less than the allowances in the budget, so I saw no issues. The VP who sold me on the project finally came to me right before Christmas and the move. The reason why I didn't have any issues up until the last three months of the project was that the project manager, who took over the project a month or so after our original PM moved on, completely mismanaged the project. Most was to my good, but the outcome was we got a lot of upgrades we weren't supposed. But these upgrades ran the budget way over, so the construction company wasn't making as much money as they once were. Me and the VP had about a two-hour powwow where he took a beating. The end result is yes, I got a lot of upgrades to our building, but these things still should have been my choice not a consolation prize. We had to come to some agreements, so they wouldn't put off the other building completion and get mine open. Lot more to it but that is the gist. I was behind the 8-ball with the clock ticking to get out of my old building, be open on all fronts so as not to lose much business because that pays the bills for my fairy tale land.
This is probably the most planning I have ever done for anything. My goal was to be closed down only for one week and reopen the day after New Year Day (originally it was January 1 but we could not get the final inspection till Jan 2nd. I will get to this part as it is a story all to itself) I thought about this move for TWO MONTHS prior to the original Thanksgiving date. We didn't hire a moving company which I thought about thoroughly as well. I even had a friend tell me I needed professional movers and not amateurs. I was okay with this statement, but I planned to plan for it all. Had we done it at once, it probably would have been a disaster. Many stages to move middle aged gym owner, says Yoda.
Act 1: Mats a far and wide
Mats like cars come in many varieties. I grew up with 4x6 stall mats and had some hanky panky days with rolls of mats here and there. I decided to keep the majority of the good mats for the upstairs cardio area, so these would be the first to get moved. I had measured and remeasured a few times to figure out how I would place them on the cardio mezzanine. I checked a couple them and did my calculations based on the 4x6. I figured the easiest way to lay them without too much cutting to fit. Old mats are grisly like old lifters, tough to cut.
After a couple of decades of moving equipment and cardio your skill gets refined and honed. I knew I wanted to not blow out any biceps or any other piece parts, so I arranged for a forklift at both my old place and the new gym (worth every cent over and over again) Then I asked a friend for some pallets. I did get the forklift stuck on the first day. Found out quick, grass and forklifts are not in agreement in this universe.
My plan was to draft as many people as possible. I put out signup sheets and posted it on GramBook a couple weeks in advance. As with any move, lights on roaches’ scatter. Only the slowest get caught in the web. Usually they are the gamedayers. They just happen to be there. We also happened to pick up a new employee at the same time. Cole who became Cole Trickle (absolutely no resemblance). So, band of mat movers we were. Plan was to stack them up on a pallet figuring two feet hanging off would be fine on a 4x4 pallet and still move them. Well, we soon found out the majority of may were 7x 2 and not the 4x6s I thought from the original measurements. Fiddle sticks. The pallets still worked but we had to fold them up and stack about 5 to 7 a pallet. As you stack old mats the weight begins to snap some of them. Crap, well in the end these broken in half gave us about 4 feet that fit perfectly on a mat. This would work out later when we moved equipment.
Back to the mat. Once we got them stacked and pallet jacked outside, Ken (loving referred to as Mr. F) would load them on his flatbed (find friends with flatbeds, straps and way more capability then you have! This is a key ingredient!) He has a 16 and 40-footer! Then they got hauled to the new spot. With the 7'2" mats, I had to back up and punt. In my planning, I had them all going long ways to limit cutting. After some finagling, it worked to where we had almost no cutting. I had to change my original plan but that happens. This would be a common theme over the next few weeks.
Act 2: Old and going out with a Fight
With the mats mostly completed and installed at the new location, the next step was taking the old shit down from the mezzanine at the old gym. The majority of the REALLY old cardio was to be turned in as trade for much newer and refurbished equipment. I wasn't getting much since I knew that most of the old pieces were well over 10 years old. The plan was, get the new(er) upstairs and somewhat positioned at the new gym and then they could pick up the old equipment in the same day.
The most dreaded part of the move for all of us was pulling all the old cardio equipment down. The stairs were 4 feet wide with a sharp turn at the top. Only one way in and one way out. Having carried the majority of the old equipment up, it is a miserable experience requiring 4 plus people, yelling, some screaming and many moments of terror going down the stairs with 400 to 500 lbs. of awkward hoping no one slips, missteps, loses their grip or worst of all, not in sync with the rest of us. We got a lot more help on this one. I also “guilt-ateered” a few of the stronger cats. Remember, me left shoulder does not do the overhead move so much anymore so although I will get in the frackas as much as anyone. I knew having more peeps involved would save the core group. This is also where the whole summer and most of the fall of prowler pushing came in handy. Strong I may not be, but winded I was neither. I will say each lift and move I expected the rapture of the biceps to be laid upon me. Blessed it was not. We got it all outside and a giant sigh of relief was felt by all.
I had a gate installed on the new mezzanine so we could forklift the new cardio up and in and didn’t have to carry up no stinkin’ stairs. We strapped the cardio to the pallets with the broken 4ft ish mats to keep the equipment from slipping in between the pallets. Hence to be known as rubbers. Cole's main job was to get us rubbers, dude from here on out. As a side note, I had a dumb waiter chain pulley system installed for future use without the beloved forklift. I do mean beloved in this case by the way. You could also call this working on your technical skills.
Act 3: Deck the Hall
My plan after the cardio was completed was to lay the mats in the new gym main lifting hall. My plan was to put down three rows, drop equipment in, lay a couple more rows, drop more equipment in, etc. I had spent many hours contemplating the set-up, had it all listed out. Well, this didn't quite work out.
Meanwhile back at the old bat cave, many wheels were in motion there. The electricians had pulled down all the old fans, old store fixtures, TV’s stands hanging 20 ft up. Things were getting packed up, chaos was swirling and not of my own creation this time. We had to cool the jets for about a week or so until the day after Christmas. We were scheduled to be closed from X-mas till Jan 2. During the cool your jets phase, we all continued to pack up as many mats, clean up all the 20 plus years of history and hoarder things everyone accumulates-boxes of crap you were never going to keep.
My plan was to move the gym store and Spud, Inc straps last based on when they could hook up the wi-fi at the new place. Can't do business without wi-fifi. This turned out to be correct. I had been arguing with Spectrum on installation for about a month. They were supposed to come a couple weeks before the couple weeks and did and then the guy said he would be right back and never showed back up. They then set it up for Jan. 4 (we were to open Jan 2) so I had to spend a lot of time with some nice people to make the 27th happen. This luckily did happen but the computer guy was off for the week until guess what….Jan 2. In the end this worked out but not after some more fun stuff. Meanwhile, work continued the week before Xmas as we palletized and strapped all the equipment down with the prerequisite, Cole grab a rubber, dude.
Christmas came and went, and it was time to “tear the roof off this MOFO” so to speak. Many people show up to help over the next few days almost in shifts. Meanwhile, my plan to keep the gym supplement store rolling goes to shit as my night guy goes on a frenzy while we move equipment to the new spot. But let me back up a bit, the capable people with 40-foot flatbeds show up. Well shit, let me back up a bit more. We had a lot of issues with the final portion of the entrance to the gym parking lot. It was supposed to be poured weeks before we got the green light. The utilities company handling their part could not tell us if they wanted concrete or asphalt on the part the city owns. My parking lot is concrete as that is what I wanted. Of course, this back and forth goes on right up till the move. Finally, they told the construction company to go ahead with concrete. Timing is awesome as the pour goes down the weekend before X-mas! So now I wonder will the concrete hold and not crack when ole 40-footer and the convoy go rolling across the great divide. We shall see.
I allotted a few days to get all of the equipment out. Well a 40-footer holds way more than I thought it would. Mr. F and Billy attacked the loading and strapping of equipment to the trailer. The rest of us pack up boxes, bars, small things. This is where the frenzy started. Things went so well we had lots of people wanting to move stuff but nothing to move. I just was not ready for this as it deviated from my plan way too early. I handed the small move stuff off to the wife who handles it like a champ as I blew up slightly. This allowed me to go back to the main stuff. Always have a good lieutenant Dan. Nothing had to be broken down, even the Hammer Strength Legasaurus and the Gibson 9 foot red power rack made it out the doors. At the end of the day, we got about a little over 1/2 or closer to 2/3 of everything. Oh yeah, we had someone on our side as we rolled across the fresh concrete that had only been dry for 3 days and there was no creaking or groaning. No buttcracks!
So yes, way more than I expected happened on day one due to a lot of great people and some thoughtful preparedness. Unfortunately, as the equipment rolled off I realized staging it, laying some mat, staging it etc was out the door literally. We staged equipment and not having its final resting spot ready, it filled up quick in the new gym. Luckily, we had another building we put up for renting out. So, I became the traffic cop working the wreck with most of the equipment heading to a detour in the building next door. The space just filled up quick and I didn't want to move it over and over again. The backup and punt was in full effect. Still an awesome day!
Later that day as we returned to the gym to reassess the next stage, this is where the night guy went nuts. When we returned, all of the supplements were packed up, the bathrooms were packed up, all of the computers and equipment that we were still going to use were packed up, a lot of the Spud, Inc stuff was on pallets packed up. So my plan to stay open with the store took a nose dive but we did keep up enough Spud Inc stuff to keep running. That turned out to be a blessing.
Day two of the move saw much of the same. We finished the inside and moved all of the strongman/sleds/beloved prowler from outside. Halfway through the second, maybe third or fourth day now that I think of it, we got the wonderful news that the certificate of occupancy was delayed due to water testing and approval from the city and DHEC. I just stood there dazed looking at the project manager. I got all this news as we were trying to unload our truck full of things. I said do you know how much business we will lose, extra rent I will have to pay at the old place, members who will be pissed that I will not be open when I said I would. He just stood there taking the beating like so many times I am sure he has before with just a glazed expression on his face. Just waiting for it to pass. My questions became how long are we talking? (this by the way should have been done weeks before as the blame game started) He says it could be 4 to 6 weeks. I said who the f#&k do YOU start calling NOW?
After two days of hammer time and completely moving an entire gym in what I would consider record time, we were done. This, physically wrecked me, is was sort of like a hard night of drinking and you wake up to do your walk of shame. You are walking weird and still sort of drunkish but you plod on. The reality of what had happened had not sunk in. Basically we moved the majority of the gym equipment in two days. We still had lots more to do. The only things we left at the old gym was the Spud Inc inventory and all that runs that including the Dale and the Ryan and they were telling me it could be another 4 weeks before we could open the doors and start making money again.
Act 4: The arrangement
The next couple of days were spent moving the largets game of musical chairs you have ever seen. I probably had 20, maybe 30, plus pieces of equipment stored next door and what seemed like a full gym already. The general setup was there, now just had to fill in the 10lb of flour in a 5lb sack. I would set up one section and ratchet it down to what I thought was good then start placing around that. I would look at it for a bit, then ask opinions on what to do and then do the opposite. We got what I would thought would be a good set up, then look at what was still left next door and realize I would have to tighten it up even more. This went on for a couple days. Finally realizing that there wasn't any way to get it all in without making it like the old gym, I cut off 25 feet of the turf area. We had 75 feet but the really cool stuff I got just for this gym happened to be sitting in the 25 feet we needed so 25 feet got chopped off. We did widen the turf a bit more than we originally had but it didn't make up for the lost footage. In the end it worked out fine and didn't clutter too bad but more importantly I got to keep all my extra hammer pieces that just happened to land in this area. Every piece in the gym got moved at least twice but more like three or four times each to get it just right.
Lots more to do and in between times, yell at the project manager, call people to get the CO, get the computer guy in there, get spectrum back out to make sure the wi-fi was hooked up, etc. My plan to be open Jan 2nd was right on track but due to other things beyond my control it didn’t happen. However, the initial 4 to 6 weeks the project manager quoted me took only 3 days of hounding people to get the water issue done and get the final inspection to be open. Once we got the okay from the inspector, we had to get the business license changed at the final hour. A lot of running around and that was done late on a Tuesday and we finally opened on January 10, 2018.
Key takeaways here:
- Plan all of it in stages at least three times
- Get forklifts, pallets and straps
- Find friends with good equipment and make sure they are more capable then you are.
- Be prepared as much as you can, but know things will go sideways many times
- AND……Find someone to get your rubbers, dude.