The All Blacks have trained there, it has more members than any other Kiwi gym and now it is in for a $30 million makeover to bring the world's biggest immersive biking studio to New Zealand.
Les Mills' Auckland City gym between Victoria St West and Wellesley St West plans to create a 100-bike studio with a curved screen 20m wide by about 4m high.
Les Mills NZ Group national managing director Dione Forbes-Ryrie said that studio would be the biggest of its type in the world.
Immersive fitness wraps group classes with graphics and audio that almost gives riders the impression they are pedalling through futuristic cities or flying through mountain ranges.
Forbes-Ryrie said the three-year construction plan for the 12,000-member gym would be the most the business had invested in a single property.
"We have 58,000 members throughout New Zealand and we turned 50 last month," she said. "Now, we're planning for the future and the changes at the Auckland City property illustrate that."
The Herald reported last month the gym had told its members they would not even "need to cross the road" from their carpark to get to training when the new block is up, drawing criticism from Greater Auckland editor Matt Lowrie, whose website promotes walking and biking. He described the new block scheme as "the height of absurdity".
Forbes-Ryrie said the gym would stay open while the work was done. "This is conceptual and not firmly decided yet. It's not about doing it in a hurry," she said of the plans.
The first phase of work has already started.
Les Mills owns four properties at its Auckland City gym site:
• The back of the former Modern Signs site at 190 Victoria St West, behind the gym's main building where Leighs Construction has started work on a 333-vehicle carpark for gym members and the public;
• 188 Victoria St West, the gym's main building with the reception, members' entry and Cafe Brioche. Previously an industrial building it will be restored and upgraded;
• The 90-minute gym members' carpark in front of the building will become a landscaped courtyard with trees, seating and possibly dining;
• The neighbouring "glass box" modernist three-level structure where internal layout floor changes are planned;
• 186 Victoria St West, a smaller adjoining rooftop carpark building with internal basement. A basketball court will replace the carpark and the basement will have a new layout.
Les Mills has hired Monk Mackenzie Architects, interior design specialist Rufus Knight of Knight Associates and design agency Alt Group to design the changes.
Les Mills is an established brand and it can be more confident in its own skin. It doesn't have to be so loud
Dean Mackenzie of Monk Mackenzie said concept designs for the existing buildings planned a significant refurbishment and would see some building features removed. The structures would be improved, he said and facilities expanded to cater for the gym's growing membership.
There would be more cubicle shows for men and woman and more lockers.
False ceilings could be stripped out and wooden roof trusses in the gym's top floor exposed, creating a feeling of more space, he said.
"Alterations will be undone. It's a bit of a dog's breakfast," he said of the three inter-connecting buildings. The result would be a better layout, and a more spacious and open apparently betweeen what will eventually be four buildings with the carpark is finished.
"We are re-inventing the brand of Les Mills, looking at all the buildings. Les Mills is an established brand and it can be more confident in its own skin. It doesn't have to be so loud," Mackenzie said.
The legacy building dates to the early 1930s and is the former headquarters of New Zealand manufacturers Alex Harvey & Sons, which later became AHI. Mackenzie said its industrial past would be respected, acknowledged and enhanced with the changes.
He described plans to give a more sophisticated, upmarket appearance to the building. The main entry door will be changed. Windows on the city side will be removed and replaced to match older-style steel-framed windows on the Victoria St West front.
A floor-to-ceiling glazed wall is planned between reception and members' entry looking into the main ground-level gym to give more visual transparency between the public and member areas, Mackenzie said.
Rufus Knight said the cafe may be expanded and alow wall between the carpark and street removed and steps built to encourage people to enter that outdoor area, he said.
Third-generation family member Les Mills jnr, 29, is Les Mills' international creative director, named after his grandfather, gym business founder and former Auckland mayor Les Mills.
"These changes will make members' experiences better," Mills nnr said.
International gym trends were for smaller boutique spaces "not full-service gyms, not membership models". The planned bike studio followed that trend, he said. "I grew up among the club. This site meant so much to me because my grandparents owned it," Mills nnr said.
Phillip Mills, managing director of Les Mills International, said his son was consulting on the changes. The carparking building was just the first stage of the multi-phase upgrade to the property. • Experience a new studio like that being planned for Auckland here.