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Upscale Fitness Center to Open on Executive Drive

The spa-like gym, Heat Fitness, is scheduled to open this spring.

A new business named Heat Fitness is slated to open in Sussex near the corner of Highway 164 and Lisbon Road after being approved by Sussex officials last week.

Karen Welch, owner of Heat Athletics, said she plans on doing something different by creating an upscale, spa-like workout facility in the 5,200 square feet of empty space next to her current business on Executive Drive. Construction is already scheduled to begin next week with the majority of the business to be completed by late March.

“My plan to set us apart is to make this a spa-like fitness center,” Welch said. “I want things like the bathrooms to be similar to a spa, but we’ll also have state-of-the-art workout equipment for the more ambitious people. We’ll have another room that’s dedicated to a massage therapist, and classrooms towards the back for group workouts like a spinning class.”

The idea for the facility sprung from requests by clients of her current business. As an all-star cheerleading operation with a ticket to the world competitions the last five years, Heat Athletics averages 350 kids at practice each week, coming from as far as Madison and Racine.

Considering parents are the chauffers to and from long practices, Welch saw the need for some adult distractions.

“People are coming from so far, and it’s nice around here because there’s lots of shopping, but so many parents ask, ‘Well, why don’t you have a class for us?’” said Welch. “Depending on the practices, the kids can be here anywhere from an hour to four hours.”

“I’m going to be doing something different here... I have a vision for this space..."

Heat Athletics employs 15 people doing everything from coaching to apparel manufacturing. The addition of Heat Fitness is expected to bring at least five more jobs to Sussex, including a massage therapist and two personal trainers.

In addition, for the first time ever, the eight-year-old building in Sussex’s industrial park will be filled with thriving businesses, including Momentum and Flabbergast. Welch said village officials were happy to see her interested in a new business venture.

However, the plan to expand is nerve wracking. With no investors, Welch and her husband are praying the new business will find its market.

“It’s just me and my husband funding this project,” Welch said. “The building owner is doing the buildout for us, and you pay for that in your lease over a period of time. But all of the equipment is coming from my money. It’s a bit of a risk, and I’m nervous, but when I started Heat Athletics in Hartland before moving to Sussex, I didn’t even have enough money to cover the rent, let alone utilities and insurance. I worked two years for no pay. But sometimes that’s what it takes.”

Heat Athletics is planning a grand reopening for March 24, so Welch is planning that Heat Fitness will be close enough to completion for official tours at that time. Welch hopes her already-interested client base and Sussex’s young, professional community will make Heat Fitness the place to break a sweat in the village.

“I’m going to be doing something different here," she said. "This is going to be a little more upscale. I have a vision for this space. This will be a place where casual exercisers can go, but we’ll also have the best equipment for the more devoted people.”

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