Annie Sakamoto’s CrossFit Santa Cruz Central Closes Its Doors
After 15 years on Research Park Drive in Santa Cruz, California, Annie Sakamoto’s CrossFit Santa Cruz Central closed its doors on July 1st. While this has been nine months in the making, the end was incredibly bittersweet for Sakamoto, as well as the gym’s coaches and community.
- “Fifteen years later, I’ve been through multiple different owner partnerships, expanded the space and our community and met some of my closest and dearest friends. I’ve also lost two of my best friends and business partners who I know are with me everyday. And I’ve gained the most incredible business partner I could ever hope for…Today we moved everything out. But everything that we built in that place, all the relationships and memories, the community will come with us to our new space,” Sakamoto shared on Instagram.
One big thing: Founded in 2008, by Sakamoto and four other fellow CrossFitters turned business partners, the team opened the doors of CrossFit Santa Cruz Central 200 meters away from the very first, original CrossFit gym. It was one of the longest running boxes in the world.
What happened: In October of 2022, Sakamoto and her staff were informed that the business with which they share the space had purchased the building.
- “We were never given the chance to counter the offer, but now, what’s done is done, and we’re moving forward. In retrospect, we would probably have tried to counter-offer, to buy the space, if we knew then what we know now.”
- “At the moment, we didn’t realize how hard it would be. Fifteen years ago, we walked down the road, 200 meters from the original gym and said, how about this?” said Sakamoto.
While trying to find a space that could accommodate their vision and community needs, Sakamoto faced major challenges. What they needed in a gym was very specific: it needed to be a large enough space, with roll up doors, high ceilings to facilitate ropes and rings. The area needed to be zoned as industrial, as per Santa Cruz city code, and there needed to be a specific number of parking spaces per square footage.
Additionally, over the last 15 years, Santa Cruz has seen so much change and growth, and most notably, the increase in marijuana grow facilities. With the legalization of the drug, these facilities are plentiful in the area and have greatly increased the price per square footage of space available.
Moving forward: After nine months of searching, Sakamoto found a new spot five miles away from the original CrossFit Santa Cruz Central location. Five miles can mean 45 minutes of driving during rush hour, and Sakamoto acknowledges that this could impact her members. She understands this relocation won’t be sustainable or even possible for them all. Client flux is inevitable and she’s optimistic that this new building is the very best option, and one that could really allow the business to thrive.
- “This will allow us to grow. You know, we’ve been running things the same way for 15 years, and now we’ve been forced to change, forced to re-evaluate, forced to evolve. It could be the greatest thing for this business.”
- “I feel like I’ve been treading water for three years, since COVID, just trying to stay above the surface, surviving. I’ve now been given the gift of change,” said Sakamoto.
There are some renovations that need to take place before move-in, which pushes opening day into October or November. In the meantime, the community is participating in at-home workouts, encouraging each other virtually, throughout the city. Additionally, a temporary space, at a local Seventh Day Adventist Church, will come available in August.
While Sakamoto was initially shaken by this forced change, she now embraces it. Since COVID, she has been thrown so many wrenches and obstacles and she sees herself stronger for it.
And the community support has been unparalleled. While they are waiting to move, equipment is being stored in members’ garages, on their properties and much of it is being rented out. Between thirty-five and forty people showed up on move-out day and within hours, hauled 15 years worth of equipment out of their 3800 square foot building.
Sakamoto: “CrossFit prepares us physically for challenges, but it also prepares us emotionally. You know? It’s about being comfortable with the uncomfortable and this is that!”