Kickboxing martial arts school The Pit SLO has moved to the former location of SLO Fresh Market on Laurel Lane in San Luis Obispo, the first in a series of developments for the shopping center.
Cruz Gomez, owner of The Pit, hopes the move to a larger and more visible location will attract students to the school’s family-friendly fitness classes.
Previously co-owned by mixed martial arts celebrity Chuck Liddell, The Pit SLO has “a stigma of being a fight gym,” Cruz said, “but it’s not, really.” The location offers Hawaiian Kempo kickboxing and other classes for all ages, as well as training for competitive kickboxers.
The new location is 6,700 square feet, more than twice the size of the gym’s previous location on Ricardo Court off South Broad Street.
Cruz, a black belt in Hawaiian Kempo who trained and taught at the gym, bought the business in 2011 from Chuck Liddell and Scott Adams. The Pit SLO is affiliated with The Pit in Arroyo Grande, which is owned by fighter John Hackleman, who trained Liddell.
The arrival of The Pit SLO at Laurel Lane is the first of many changes for the shopping center, which was purchased by developer Patrick Aurignac in December.
Aurignac raised the rent from 30 cents per square foot to $1 per square foot (80 percent of the current market value). That led to the closure of SLO Fresh Market, which had operated for half a century.
Some residents decried the closure, saying that seniors living nearby as well as other neighbors are in need of a local market.
However, Aurignac is working with the city on plans to redevelop the entire property in a mixed-use project, adding an additional 10,000 square feet of commercial space to accommodate another market.
“I bought (the property) as an investment, and I saw an opportunity to improve the neighborhood. I am trying to be fair to everyone,” Aurignac said.
The location will also include for-sale condominiums, as well as affordable housing units for rent.
Aurignac said that he will work with the current tenants to keep them a part of the new development.
However, the plans and timeline for construction are still being developed. “Everything always takes longer and costs more,” Aurignac said.