According to legal documents filed in U.S. District Bankruptcy Court, the current owner of the West Seattle All Star Fitness had a long standing practice of selling long-term memberships at deep discounts in an apparent effort to generate money to keep the place going. Then the owner filed chapter 11 bankruptcy- leaving potentially thousands of members in fear they may be left holding worthless pieces of paper.
"I knew that the club was in trouble," said longtime member Yvonne Zaske.
Zaske says she's watched the facility falter. But she and others stuck with the club because of location. They want a gym that's close for regular work outs. Zaske says she especially liked having a convenient gym with swimming pool hours that meet her schedule. So last December, she agreed to renew their 1- year memberships -- and pay in advance -- in return for an extra 6 months free. She paid $632 for a membership that runs into June of 2014.
"I said what happens if you go bankrupt? And I was told the new owner would honor it," Zaske explained.
With the current owner now in bankruptcy- Zaske and reportedly more than 2-thousand others in similar situations, recently received a bankruptcy hearing notice that suggests some prepaid memberships may be in question- that some prepaid contracts may be terminated and rejected upon sale of the club to the new buyer.
"They can keep the 6 months, I don't care about that so much, but I want my membership. I paid 600 and some dollars for a year's membership thinking that I was going to continue with the club," Zaske said.
Former Seattle Seahawk Sam Adams, who is not in the fitness club business, told me he has wanted to buy the West Seattle club for time now. By telephone, Adams says he has not been allowed to look at the club's records but his goal is to honor as many of the prepaid members as possible.
"If it's a legal prepaid membership, I intend to honor those." , Adams said. "I intend on doing the best that I can for the members."
Adams says he's aware of the poor maintenance and upkeep problems at the club, and he plans to clean up the place and get it back in good shape. Court documents show the new name as West Seattle Fitness. Adam stresses, however, that a lot of what happens is out of his hands right now because of bankruptcy legalities. According to statements filed by the bankruptcy trustee, one critical factor appears to be that some of the prepaid memberships and other financial arrangements made by the bankrupt owner, may be illegal. Both the trustee and Adams emphasize that the judge in this case is very aware of what's going on.
The first bankruptcy hearing to approve the sale is scheduled for Friday, March 22 at 9:30 a.m. in Courtroom of 7206 of the U.S. Bankruptcy Court at 700 Stewart Street in Seattle. The case is being heard by Hon. Karen A.Overstreet. The Chapter 11 Trustee is Richard A. Hooper.