UPPER CHICHESTER — Walk into Sports Extreme, behind Fulton Beverage on the Conchester Highway, and a visitor can see this gym is different.
Fans swirl in the 17,000-square-feet facility and a 24-foot boxing ring and a 20-foot Octagon fighting cage are the welcoming committee.
“This is the only gym like this within a 100-mile radius,” co-owner Ed Bailey said. “We’re a little bit edgy. There’s nothing like this.”
It’s been a dream of his for 20 years, since he first started to write its business plan.
It’s a place where the FBI, Secret Service and Navy Seals train, as well as Mixed Martial Arts professionals, Tae Kwon Do champions as well as women and children.
Their classes consist of boxing, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, Olympic Tae Kwon Do, Muay Thai kickboxing, combat conditioning, Sayoc Kali and wrestling.
They even have a Mixed Martial Arts team headed by MMA pro Tim Carpenter. He’ll share duties with Tom Kier, the second ranking Touhan in the world in Sayoc Kali.
Bailey has applied for his MMA promoter’s license and expects to begin exhibitions later in the summer.
Having visited gyms all over the country, Carpenter shared his thoughts on Sports Extreme. “This is the best facility around,” he said.
Carpenter also explained the allure of MMA.
“I like competition,” he said. “It’s the most basic form of competition. This is an outlet for any kind of frustration you have. It’s like therapy.”
Besides, it’s for everyone.
“Anybody could do it,” Carpenter said. “We have bikers and computer nerds. You never judge a book by its cover.”
Bailey was formerly the director of enrollment at Williamson Free Trade School and is the 34-year coach of the Screaming Eagles wrestling team, which is named after the 101st Airborne.
The business began in Oaks, but Bailey convinced his partners, Chris Grant and Dale Shedd to move it to Delco.
“We couldn’t get people to come to that Oaks facility,” Bailey said.
Sports Extreme here in Delco features a cardio area on the mezzanine level, a full gym with three sets of kettle bells and Power Tec machines and a full pro shop.
There’s also a smoothie bar and a WiFi café with 62-inch television.
In the last 58 days it’s been open, it’s gained 179 members.
Bailey’s goal is to expand by the end of the year.
“By the end of December, we’d like to have 300 members and take that out,” he said pointing to the massive back stone wall to free up an additional 15,000-square-feet of space for a competition area with bleachers..
Then, Bailey said, he’d build a bunch of apartments for competitors and he’ll have a reality show based on their daily life.
“At that point,” he said, “it would be the biggest martial arts facility in the U.S.”
Recently, Sports Extreme was featured in a Domino’s Pizza commercial where the Philly cheesesteak goes against the Venice Beach Vegetarian Pizza.
But, fame hasn’t overblown his business ego.
It’s the lessons he’s learned at Williamson that have partly influenced Sports Extreme’s “Beat the Streets” program in which 10 underprivileged children who get scholarships to the gym for six months. Applicants need a letter from a police officer in their district and must show their report card.
“They have to be good kids,” Bailey said. “You build a better man, you build a better community, you build a better world.”
After six months, they’ll be eligible for sponsorships to continue their time at Sports Extreme.
Bailey said he really wants to focus on this program, remembering his Chester youth and the promise given to him by wrestling Coach Joe Carroll.
“I want to give back to the community now,” he said.
In addition, Bailey wants a better physique for everyone.
“We want people to get fit,” he said. “We want people to defend themselves in today’s world.”
And, he’s got just the place to do it.
“A gym like no other is what we call it,” Bailey said. “We have everything you need – we have the weights, we have the cardio, we have the Octagon, we have the ring. You can do anything here.”
By KATHLEEN E. CAREY email@example.com