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Joakim Noah Set to Open 5 Crunch Gym Franchises in Chicago

Mark.Miles By
Mark Miles
   | Celebrity, Chicago News

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Joakim Noah, the Chicago Bulls center and reigning NBA Defensive Player of the Year, is branching out into new entrepreneurial endeavors with the opening of five Chicagoland gym locations over the next few years.

Noah, 29, and his marketing agency, BDA Sports Management, made a deal with New York-based Crunch Fitness to expand the fitness facilities into Illinois with the first location expected to open this fall.

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Crunch Fitness has roughly 90 active gym locations worldwide reports Chicago Business. The fitness chain is co-owned by California-based New Evolution Ventures and Angelo Gordon, a New York private equity firm. Eighty-two of the franchise locations are spread between 12 states, Puerto Rico and Australia. The company previously had locations in the Chicago area, but they were shuttered when Crunch filed for bankruptcy back in May of 2009.  The current owners purchased Crunch and began their aggressive franchise program.

In addition to Noah, Crunch is partnering with other NBA players at different locations throughout the country. New Crunch franchises will be opening under the ownership of NBA players including the Minnesota Timberwolves’ Chase Budinger, the Sacramento Kings’ Darren Collison and the Golden State Warriors’ Klay Thompson.

“The idea is to help diversify these guys for after they finish their careers,” Crunch CEO Ben Midgley said according to Chicago Business. “They could have five to 10 to 15 operating units and could be in good position.”

As far as where the Joakim Noah-owned Crunch locations will be, it’s still up in the air. However, one location is rumored to be planned on the Near West Side just past the West Loop close to the United Center and the Major Adams Community Center. The community center is where the Bulls center’s Noah’s Arc Foundation holds weekly programs focused on the arts and sports for children to help develop positive skills and attributes.

Last year’s Defensive Player of the Year has had a bit of a rough season so far due to having arthroscopic surgery on his left knee in May, the arrival of All-Star center Pau Gasol, and a recent ankle injury. Nonetheless, Noah is one of the most beloved sports figures in Chicago and is often considered the heart of this Bulls team.

“He’s very big in Chicago, he’s very big nationally, and we’re appreciative and honored to be partnered with him,” Midgley told Chicago Business.

Opening a franchise while still in the middle of one’s career isn’t the most common course of action, nor the most lucrative, for professional athletes, but it does provide benefits when looking toward retirement.

“It’s a good business opportunity for these guys to not only lend their name, but to see how a day-to-day operation works without having to get their hands too dirty,”  said Doug Shabelman, president of Evanston-based Burns Entertainment, to Chicago Business. “It might be a great way to segue into the next aspect of his career and find out how much his name will mean in that area come 10 to 15 years from now.”

Photo of Joakim Noah by Keith Allison (originally posted to Flickr as 00055633) [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Photo of Crunch Fitness by Kerry Lannert

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