Gym Culture Enters the Metaverse: A bespoke fitness experience could be the first actual use case of NFTs
Grace Chen / October 6, 2022 / If modern day gym culture was born in southern California, its teenage party years are happening in Las Vegas.
What had started as an obscure pastime for beach bums and wandering souls, the fitness industry has become a trillion dollar industry and is achieving religious status on social media. The natural congregation - Sin City. It has become the new mecca for great gyms, a hub for content creators, and playground for professional physiques.
Just like the all-you-can-eat buffets, the patrons are provided a giant selection with something for everyone. $10 gyms aplenty, profiting from good intentions and violating fire codes. Smoothie shops on every corner. Swollen bodybuilders gather in the strip mall behind the porno shop, admiring each other and loathing themselves. Spin classes on the strip. Hot yoga studios in the desert.
The real elites of Las Vegas
And in the swanky enclave of Summerlin, there is Kilo Club. A private offering capped at 1,000 members, it distinguishes itself as the gym membership for those that can afford their own gym. It is a stunning 30,000 square foot, $12 million dollar build out with a fabulous juxtaposition of imported Italian stone alongside brutalist steel equipment.
It's a private elevator to an unlabeled floor, astutely marked with just a logo like a James Bond movie. The lobby of a five star hotel, flanked by twin 8 ft. tall statues of Annunaki war gods. With amenities like spa-like locker lounges, private infrared warm up rooms, and a Peloton studio (so you can work out by yourself with other people), this place rocks. The members are an eclectic mix. As an intense fight scene unfolds in the MMA room, a client silently awaits her aesthetician appointment on the lobby couch. Even among upscale fitness facilities, it is a testament to Las Vegas excess. But strangely it's just right.
Conceived and created by local gym designer Jea Jung, it is the first luxury club to serve this tourist and celebrity hot spot. The opulent experience speaks for itself, and just like any other lifestyle service there will be those seeking to pay a premium for the best in class. And the intangible bonus - a capped membership gives you peace of mind that you are also paying for what is priceless: good co-members.
A portal from meatspace to metaverse
There is a deeper layer to this ambitious project. "As all things in nature," he says, "form follows function. It is beautiful because it serves a purpose, not the other way around." And that purpose, according to Jung, is to evolve the fitness industry in ways that were previously unimagined. "All human constructs eventually evolve into art form. Language, food, clothing, tech. Basic necessities can inspire creativity, and tools can become expressions of self. Fitness is a developing industry that will make the same evolution."
This is why he, like other artists and luxury brands, is adopting and adapting blockchain technology to the client experience. More specifically, NFTs and other digital assets that can deliver more artistic value to his discerning club members.
A limited run of 1,000 NFTs for the founding 1,000 Las Vegas members, with two more clubs on deck for New York City and Miami. "They are free to mint, cost nothing, and are worth nothing," he explains, "but their value over time will be determined by the value of the club network. It's not up to me to decide - it's up to the market and the universe, and most importantly the owners, to christen value upon the experience. If and when that happens, I've provided that added value to the early adopters of my product. Those that contribute culture should be the ones to most benefit."
Gyms built by software
In a brave new world of monkey cartoons, token scams, and financial witchcraft, could this be a real world application of NFTs? Jung says he's willing to be the first fitness entrepreneur to kick in the door even though he says, "that's usually the first guy to get killed. But somebody has to venture into the blue ocean, because eventually red ocean strategy stops working. There will be other fancy gyms. And there is no loyalty among gym patrons in general, and Vegas people in particular. As it should be. Capitalism makes this country great and competition makes this city special. But there is fierce loyalty in ownership, scarce assets, and real community. This is where blockchain is beautiful, because the incentives are aligned by code and programmed with software. When the engineering is elegant, the humans don't have to work together. It just works and everyone wins."
Certainly a bold and refreshing approach in an industry notorious for doing the opposite. While discount gyms exploit the masses with a product that's easy to buy (but even easier to not use), a premium member owned club collectively benefits from asset values tied to human interaction of like minded people.
It's a curious proposition: if the gym NFT is worth nothing, there is still value in the experience. And if the gym NFT becomes valuable, the experience becomes a scarce asset.
If you are among the nouveau bourgeoisie - mobile, health conscious, and crypto invested - ultra clubs in destination cities could become a new form of art appreciation.