Southern Brooklyn

5 Gym Alternatives To The Steamy, Sweaty Mess At Sheepshead Bay’s Bally Fitness



If you’re like me, you’ve probably been looking for any excuse to pack your bags and abandon Sheepshead Bay’s Bally Total Fitness (1720 Sheepshead Bay Road). You’re tired of dumbbells that sit in a pile on the floor rather than on their respective shelves. You’re tired of never being able to get a decent workout between 5 p.m. and 9 p.m. due to the post-work crowd. And do I even need to go into detail about the swimming pool filled with an amalgamation of water, human sweat and dead skin cells? I’m sure I’m not alone – just take a look at their (sometimes hilarious) Yelp reviews.

For years, Bally was just about the only game in town. But a spate of gym openings in the past year (and more to open soon) brings new options to the neighborhood, as well as helped shine a light on some old ones that may have gone under the radar. Whether you’re a Bally member looking to flee, or a newbie looking for a gym, here are five solid alternatives around Sheepshead Bay.

Retro Fitness

One of the fastest growing fitness chains, Retro Fitness, has further expanded its borders, giving birth to a brand new home in nearby Gravesend. The facility sports a unique red and yellow interior, giving it a warm, vintage look that will make you feel like you’ve traveled back into the 80s. On top of that, there’s an in-house smoothie bar, cardio machines equipped with their own mini-television screens (with all the ESPN you could imagine), and an assortment of weights and dumbbells all placed properly in their respective racks. Take that Bally. But what really makes Retro Fitness stand out from the rest is their cardio theater, where you could watch a new movie every day (when I visited they were showing Skyfall) instead of focusing on how many calories you still have to burn before you could finally get off the damn treadmill. 325 Ave Y.


If you want to one day give GSP a run for his money, then the UFC Gym located on the Brighton Beach – Sheepshead Bay border is a good place to start. With courses, all taught by experts, ranging from kickboxing to jiujutsu, you can learn to kick some MMA butt. One of the highlights of the UFC Gym is their workout, conveniently called “The Workout,” where you’re guaranteed to burn between 800 and 1000 calories in just one hour-long session. Pack your boxing gloves and bring your mental toughness; you’re going to need it. 16 Brighton 11th Street.

MatchPoint NYC

Poised to be the crème de la crème of fitness centers, the $20 million complex replaces the old Brooklyn Racquet Club that shuttered in 2011. This staggering 120,000 square foot complex has everything you could imagine in terms of exercise activities: a junior Olympic pool, a state-of-the-art fitness center, a gymnastics arena, nine tennis courts, a full indoor spa, and a whole lot more to list. Feeling hungry after a workout? MatchPoint has a tasty restaurant overlooking the tennis courts with tons of fresh and healthy food options, including all the post-workout smoothies your body could handle. If you’re looking for the full package with enough activities for the whole family, then MatchPoint is the way to go. 2781 Shell Road

Challenge Fitness

Looking to get into shape while learning something new and supporting a local independent operation? Then Challenge Fitness is the gym to sign up for. Challenge has actually been in the neighborhood for some time, but moved into a larger facility a few short years ago. With unique fitness classes offered, such as “Kettle bell lunacy” (a full workout done with only Kettle bells), Zumba, karate, yoga, kickboxing and more, you’ll find yourself shredding calories and having fun. 2209 Avenue X.

Blink Fitness

Blink Fitness, already popular across Manhattan, just recently opened its doors to the people of Sheepshead Bay, located where the old Pathmark used to be on Nostrand Avenue and Avenue Y. Blink’s angle is affordability, cleanliness, and friendliness, so it’s basically the anti-Bally. With over 150 pieces of cardio and strength equipment and a $15/month price tag, Blink Fitness is the no-frills option for those looking for a workout and not a scene. There’s also motivational quotes posted around the gym to keep those reluctant legs on the treadmill. 3779 Nostrand Avenue.

— Daniel Gokstein

Do you have a favorite local gym we didn’t mention? Tell us about it in the comments!

Comment policy


  1. All I can say about the Kings Bay Y is that I’ve heard that when the smell of chlorine around an indoor pool is very strong, it indicates that the amount of urine in the water is correspondingly high… and that pool SMELLS.

  2. I’m surprised at the lack of class in an otherwise classy publication. Sheepshead Bites would not like to be on receiving end of such style

  3. Hate the places that are social clubs. I have a workout routine, moving from one device to another. But sometimes there are people just sitting on the machines and bullshitting with friends, screwing up everyone who is there to exercise.

  4. I belong to Bally’s and I am quite satisfied, given the price. But you are exactly right. There’s a group of guys, who think that because they are there every day, and are loud, that they have more rights than the rest of us to the equipment. It’s frustrating. But I steer clear of trouble, I’m not there to be Chuck Norris.

  5. Whether it’s the truth or not, or whether “BallysUp” works there are not, I agree with the point. I don’t think a publication should use its journalistic power to write something like that unless it’s an advertisement or an opinion column. No need to put down a neighborhood business to build up another, lord knows how many closed storefronts we have, we don’t need any more.

  6. You’re right that it’s generally not in our style to bash a business in the area. But eventually a spade must be called a spade. In six years of running the site, there is no business I have heard more complaints about or requests to investigate than Ballys. The Yelp reviews speak for themselves.

    My hope is that the new competition – and posts like this one – will force them to up their game.

  7. I see where you are coming from but I completely have to disagree. I am a paying member of Bally and have been for quite some time. I’m a witness to their bs that goes on. They don’t turn on AC in the summer. Their pool is disgusting and closed half the time. I started coming to the gym already in my gym clothes to avoid their disgusting disease infested locker room. The equipment is never in place….I can go on and on. I’m glad Ned did this so maybe it forces them to get back in place and do something about all the complaints. I don’t think it’s bashing them if it’s the blatant truth. And I agree that it sucks to see a local business close it’s doors, but I’d rather see a new business strive to success for doing the right thing.

  8. Also, can we please stop calling them a local or neighborhood business? A franchise like McDonalds or Subway is more a local business than Bally’s. Local/neighborhood businesses reinvest in their communities and have earned the distinction.

  9. Ballys is cheaper than others it seems but I still feel I’m getting ripped off since the gym is nasty and grimy with old equipment. They just did some kind of a “renovation” that looked like crap a week later. I have to blame the management for these issues, they run it like it’s a college library with horseplay by their staff and no customer service (I mean does it take a lot to replace the paper towels?). I wish Ballys would close their doors and a decent gym would open their doors in their place. All these other gyms are far away from this location, I usually walk to the gym and it’s hard enough, I wouldn’t want to drive and look for parking elsewhere. Bottom line: the management has to shape up and stop acting like they are doing us a favor there, they need customers more than I need to go to their gym.

  10. Old or homeless men go to Ballys just to take a shower. Locker rooms are dirty and nasty. Gym is overcrowded, no towels or even paper towels. Pay extra and go to NYSC.

  11. Replace paper towels? They even removed the dispenser in the licker room. And have you tried using the new hair dryers. They only work if you are six feet tall. At 5′ 9″, I have to stand on my tiptoes. Who would design something like that? People are bending down to use the hand dryers for their heads. And don’t even think of complaining. The clowns there ny give your bank stare.

    I don’t know how many complaints I have had over the years. This is my most recent one. Have you looked at your contract? There is a clause that says even if you have paid in full for the following year, they reserve the right at any time to raise their rates to any amount in their sole discretion, and you agree to pay! How is that even legal? How could that stand up in court? They give you a receipt for the amount paid without stating how long you are paid up until. I had the guy write on the receipt that I paid in full for a year and initial it. They could always say I wrote it because Bally’s are the biggest crooks. I had the Dept of Consumer Affairs look into that clause, and they said it was legal. BS. When did they stop looking out for the consumer and become an agency just to collect revenue for the city?

  12. The air flow is terrible the past few years. There are 30 foot ceilings yet the air stale . Every-time I go in there I get a headache and cone home with respiratory distress. Been a member for 20 years and it has never been worse. They seem to turn on the heat and then turn off the vents. I’m done at the end of the month

  13. Been going to Blink since January. Absolutely loving it! Really nice energy. Nice trainers – if you so desire. Really clean. And it’s not one of those gyms that you feel intimidated in because they don’t have all these skinny people around to make you feel bad about yourself. Great addition to the area!!!!

  14. Thank you Ned Berke for providing this tremendous public service. Not only did I learn about some great gyms that I am going to check out, but the Yelp reviews for Bally’s were the funniest thing I have ever read in my entire life. Laughed till I cried.

  15. You want clean and respectful? DON’T go to Harbor on Nostrand. That’s all I’m saying. Yes, I belong there because it’s there….but it’s possibly the worst it’s ever been (from Empire to Forum to present) with the members being complete inconsiderate assholes. I’ve seen stupid in a gym. This is a whole new level of stupid.

  16. It’s so bad that the writer finds it too packed after 5pm! Do I have to invoke Yogi’s famous quote (“nobody goes there anymore because it’s too crowded”).l

    Ballys has had its problems. The lockers were gross. But they were replaced post Sandy. I wouldn’t go in the pool or sauna. Some of the crowd is obnoxious and rude.

    But for me, Ballys delivers what I want. I use the weights machines and the treadmill and other aerobic stuff. And for the price I pay and the distance I have to travel (under 1/4 mile), I’m glad to be a member.

    You are right that competition will hopefully spur further improvements.

  17. Fitness Gallery on Neck Road is a great alternative, with lots of classes, great work out area and truly an opposite of the experience you get at the Big Gyms…

  18. To add to the previous note…This is the only Gym where you could have Personal Training for Free if you have medical insurance…All done under the strict supervision of Licensed Chiro and PT, and professionally certified personal trainers!

  19. Yeah. You’re better off. It’s cheap and you get what you pay for. I’ve spoken with the GM of the gym and he was nice and all..but the stupidity of that place will never change. EVER.

    I was at Blink Fitness on Nostrand & Flatbush, 2 weeks ago and that place is IMMACULATE. Staff members were actually moving and lifting up pieces of equipment and vacuuming underneath! And the funniest part is that there are signs all over Harbor that you’re not allowed to use chalk, but look around at the rest of the place!

    I know Harbor is getting new equipment & such but that doesn’t change the atmosphere. I walk in there and I get angry right away. The mood in there is just crap. People are inconsiderate. No one will ask if you’re using a bar or whatnot, they’ll just walk over and take it away. WHILE YOU’RE STANDING THERE. I’ve been afraid to walk away from the multi-station machine to use the bathroom for fear that I’ll come back and find a handle I was using to be gone. That’s the kind of stupidity I have to deal with in there.

  20. After reading the Yelp reviews, I am VERY glad I never stepped foot into that Bally’s. I still remember when that place was a roller skating rink.

  21. I get that you are trying to be humorous, but I’m not sure what you are trying to say. Those problems with Bally’s are because of my articles or Consumer Affairs not looking out for the consumer is because of my articles. Or is it both?

  22. I guess it was a lousy joke…. I meant that they were causing all these problems for you because of your MTA articles.

  23. who are you paying off to get 6 likes each post? I don’t get that in a month!
    I thought a “neighborhood business” was a business that exists in the neighborhood! Wow, there’s a more complex definition? I have to go back to school. Spending 4 years in the 6th grade did me no good.

  24. Can I ask how much NYSC costs? I go to Bally’s mainly because it’s cheap, I can’t afford to pay lots of money. I would gladly switch but I have budget concerns.

  25. The lack of paper towels and not replacing the soap in the showers until they are all empty inconveniences everyone. I also swear they shut off the hot water three hours before closing time, because when the pool closes the showers are all cold.

    In spite of all the negatives, it is still the best value for the money and more convenient which I why I still go there. I just wish they thought more of their customers instead of only being interested in their money.

  26. I like the restaurant somewhere who posted a bad Yelp review outside his restaurant in a lit up sign. It said something like the worst food in the City according to Yelp. Come in and see if you agree.

  27. I was curious about joining Blink on Nostrand but had an uneasy feeling about the projects being right down the street. Does it get crowded? I hate having to wait for equipment or changing my work-out routine all together because the equipment I need isn’t available.

  28. LOVE challenge fitness! I’ve been to the bigger gyms and you really can’t even compare the atmosphere and the workout you get at challenge. I highly recommend taking one of Leah Love Sosa’s classes there. Her classes are amazing and I saw my body change so quickly once I started training with her. She is so motivating!!! I cant say enough..Highly highly recommend.

  29. I haven’t had any problems with bad people being there. As for waiting for machines, yes, occasionally I have to wait, but it isn’t that long – and you can always use another machine while you wait.

  30. Hilarious about calling out that science project of a pool at Ballys. That nasty, frothy, pond scum stuff that without fail, collects at the top of that pool, makes me dry heave when I think about it. How can a multi upon multi-million dollar corporation not uphold certain cleanliness standards? Also, how can they not uphold them for so long?? I have ducked my head in there a few times over the years and there it lies, waiting to apply a nice biological coating to bathers. I just made myself shudder. Get it together already Bally’s!!!

  31. your reasons are my reasons exactly. I have a friend trying to talk me into joining NYSC in Park Slope. Why should I travel an hour and pay whatever, 5 times the money. I would end up not going. Bally’s is the practical choice for me

  32. that’s a good one. Honestly, I’ve never seen a restaurant with more than 5 reviews not have a very bad review. I think the competition might do it.

  33. Why don’t you take care of your bathroom needs before you hit the floor. How are people supposed to know you’ve run off to take a leak. Geez! The attendants are always cleaning the machines and the floor and the bathroom are immaculate. The membership is diverse and depending on when you go there is definite competition for the machines – just like any other gym in Brooklyn. If you go to any other gym at the busy times you’ll be just as annoyed.

  34. Last year we ate at this very crowded large restaurant. We also liked the food a lot. We were a little hesitant going in when we saw the “C” rating which I never saw before. It didn’t deter anyone though. I loved the scene in one of Sasha Baron Cohen’s movie where he holds the health inspector’s daughter hostage until his restaurant’s rating is changed from a “C” to an “A”. I wonder how much corruption there is with those ratings. Can’t believe that virtually every restaurant is an A or Pending.

  35. This column about fitness clubs is a worthy contribution to the neighborhood and consumer awareness. It might even spur a visit by the NYC Bored of Health. As for YELP, it has some value but their reviews are not the final word. Also, I am surprised by the number of comments and reactions. I guess this is a hot issue. Interesting to me, The Local Couch Potatoe.

  36. I sent you a post months ago about my experience with Aldi and you kicked me in the back letting me know that a review of Aldi belongs someplace else… Now you’re reviewing Bally’s and giving out information on their competitors. I simply reviewed my Aldi experience with comparison to other ‘markets’ and you dumped it and responded to me in a odd manner.

  37. I toured the local Bally’s with the boyfriend, about a year or so ago. While the fitness floor was impressive, in comparison to the Kingsbay Y, there was nothing appealing about the place. I haven’t heard anything GOOD about the Bally’s chain in the last twenty years — just that they’re generally filthy. I checked out the locker room while there — so very gross.

    I’m considering Blink Fitness, as they’re new, they look clean from the outside, they’re inexpensive, and they are the closest gym to me, and within walking distance.

    I was a member of the Kingsbay Y, close to a decade ago — it was okay (it’s since been renovated). The Y just has a completely different vibe, not a bad one, mind you. I think it reminds me a bit too much of the HES, in Canarsie … and I don’t need the nostalgia when I want a workout. Should I ever decide I want to get into a swimsuit again, I’d consider the Y, once again.

  38. Ah, Roller Palace — disco lights and carpeted surfaces nearly everywhere. I think I went to my fair share of birthday parties at that place.

  39. the people who dont flush the toliets ar the same people who refuse to rerack thier weights u can spot them always smiling in the mirrors and walking around the locker room naked for hours, worse is in the men’s locker room, the toledo scale is right next to the water fountain and when u bend over to get a sip of water ,, the gay naked guys who dont rereack thier weights jump on the scale and shake thier hairy butts. 2 inches from your lips. begging to be admired.. besides that .. they do have two super hot trainer chicks.. that can keep a man day dreaming for hours

  40. Ever bother to think think with all the water that I need to drink that I have to take frequent bathroom breaks? See, if you were actually a real hardcore gym person, you’d understand the point of staying hydrated.

  41. Hate gyms in 11th Avenue. I have a workout routine, moving from one device to another. But sometimes there are people just sitting on the machines and bullshitting with friends, screwing up everyone who is there to exercise.

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