The owner of the Lawrence Athletic Club said Tuesday his members should expect the business to stay open for the long-term despite his recent personal bankruptcy filing and a nearly $400,000 legal ruling against the business.
“We have been here 27 years, and I plan to be here another 27 years,” said Rick Sells, an owner of the Lawrence Athletic Club, 3201 Mesa Way. “As far as I know, nothing is going to change for us.”
Sells said he knows people have been speculating about the club’s future after he and his wife, Shannon Sells, filed for personal, Chapter 7 bankruptcy protection earlier this month. That filing came after Douglas County District Court Judge Paula Martin ordered Sells and his Junkyard’s Jym Inc. — which does business as the Lawrence Athletic Club — to pay $375,641 in unpaid rent to The Caspian Group, his former landlord when the club operated a gym at 1202 E. 23rd St.
Sells closed that location in February 2010, and said at the time he did so because of a legal issue. The building is owned by The Caspian Group, a local firm lead by longtime Lawrence landlord George Paley.
But Sells said the legal matter did not put his business’ future in jeopardy.
“All people are doing now is speculating and trying to dream up trash,” Sells said.
The legal and financial issues come at the same time that the Lawrence health club market is going through change. Wichita-based Genesis Health Clubs completed a deal in late July to purchase the Maximus Fitness and Wellness Center at 2339 Iowa Street. At the time, Genesis’ owner said he was actively seeking a second location in Lawrence. That sparked speculation that a deal may be in the works for the Lawrence Athletic Club.
Sells said he could never rule out the possibility of a sale at some point in the future, but he said people who believe a deal with Genesis is in the works are misguided. He said he entered serious discussions to sell the business to Genesis two years ago, but the two parties were not able to reach an agreement.
“The good Lord has kept me in business for 27 years,” Sells said. “The way I see it, there must be a reason why he wants me in business.”