Reopening the North State Barbell Club

The gym’s community is tight. Its founders are friends with the weight-lifting coach at nearby St. Ignatius High School, who was happy to gift the new facility a handful of barbell platforms. The founders also know Jim Schmitz, a three-time Olympic weightlifting coach, who is an advisor on the club’s board and was even more eager to help. A former strength and conditioning coach at UCLA, he’s an expert in the grueling art of Olympic-style weight lifting. The club has a clear mission: to provide the training and support needed for students to reach their fitness goals.

The club focuses on two Olympic lifts, the snatch and clean and jerk, which require mastering a sequence of explosive movements in which a bar is pulled from the ground to just above the shoulders in one clean motion, then hoisted overhead with the same explosiveness. Robinson, the club’s director of programming and coaching, says the technique requires a certain mind-set as well as physical ability to pull more than one’s bodyweight. “It’s a different mentality than the ‘throw and run,'” she says.

She’s right. In addition to their rigorous training programs, which include strength and conditioning and gymnastics skill work, members of North State Barbell Club take part in a weekly meet, where they compete against each other in the Olympic lifts. The goal is to improve in these competitions, so that members can lift heavier, and eventually compete at regional or national level.

McIver, who owns an event-planning and accessories business and works as a custodian at Yale, had been thinking about reopening the Barbell for a few years before she ran into Kaye Harvey, who operated HCYS from 1996 to 2007. The two began discussing the possibility of restarting it.

They’ve been working to hammer out the details of a business plan and crunch numbers, while navigating initial legal steps for the building. They expect the effort to cost $2.5 million. In addition to a barbell and weight-lifting center, they hope to reinstate a childcare program, offer financial literacy and technology classes, organize basketball tournaments and coat drives, and provide job skills for neighborhood kids the way they once did. “It will be like a little community center,” McIver says. It’s a goal that resonates with the neighborhood, which has suffered from the departure of many of its most successful businesses in recent years, including a coffee shop, an ice cream shop, and a barbershop.

Reopening the North State Barbell Club