Members at the Kingston University gym are leaving for other, cheaper fitness centres after being left disappointed by old equipment and poor maintenance, students say.
The More Energy Fitness Centre at Penrhyn Road has gone from packed to deserted over the last two years, a River investigation has found, while The Gym and Kingfisher have seen record numbers of students sign up.
The gyms said they attracted students by being able to offer cheaper membership over the academic year.
Organic chemistry PhD student Tomris Çoban said she left More Energy because it is poorly maintained, has old equipment and is unhygienic.
She said: “The university gym is disgusting and smells horrible. I found a sanitary towel full of blood in the shower.
“The equipment is very old and it costs more than my current gym now,” she said.
Çoban switched to The Gym, the most popular choice among KU students because it is situated in the town centre and has a fixed price of £19.99 per month.
PhD student in pharmacy and chemistry Sarah Fawaz was put off from signing up for a full-time membership because the gym was “small, dingy, smelly and also very unhygienic.”
“I never had a membership there but have paid to attend some of the boxing classes.
“The instructor was really good and really professional, however the equipment used for the class was very old, worn and smelly,” she said.
Fawaz ended up signing a £55 a month contract with David Lloyds in the Rotunda, one of Kingston’s more expensive gyms.
The student said: “It’s always clean and offers a huge variety of equipment that’s always highly maintained. I’m willing to pay more money for the comfort.”
Assistant manager at The Gym Liam Mason said students choose them because of the appealing opening hours.
Mason said: “We are bigger, cheaper, 24-hours and have no contracts. “According to what students have told me, they view The Gym as the student gym, and our price beats anyone in Kingston.”
Biochemistry student Noor Awan opted for dual gym memberships with both More Energy and The Gym, because she wanted to have somewhere to work out outside of the uni gym’s 11-5
weekend opening hours.
Awan is uncomfortable with stretching at The Gym because they do not offer a studio and she has to be “out in the open.”
She said: “I prefer training at More Energy because it’s less crowded, the staff are much more friendly and I can have my own space compared to The Gym, where it is almost always super busy.”
According to Ricky James, Kingston Branch Manager for More Energy, a private company that runs a series of university gyms, The Gym wins students over because they can afford to operate “without profit.”
James said: “They don’t have to make a profit on student memberships, they just need to get them through the door.
“They had a record number of students this year.
“Not to say that we’re not profitable, but the money we get is invested back into the gym.
“But at the end of the day you have to cater to what students want, and what they want is to pay less and the opportunity to train 24-hours a day even though they’re never going to train after 10pm anyway.”
James did not want to comment on how many members the gym has lost.
Olivia Thompson, member of staff at Kingfisher Leisure Centre said their all-inclusive student offer this autumn, offering eight-months access for £149, made them a solid student alternative and the cheapest eight-month contract.
“We’ve had a massive rise in students,” she told The River.
“Most of them are fine with our opening hours.”
One Kingston student switched gyms to Kingfisher Leisure Centre to save money and only misses the classes taught at More Energy.
“I changed because I get more for what I pay.
“More Energy is rather low-standard and still I paid loads more for eight months, I find that a bit ironic when it’s supposed to be the students’ gym,” he said.