Former Hannibal Elementary School transformed into Isaly Fitness Center

HANNIBAL – All five of Ron and Maxine Isaly’s children – four sons and a daughter – graduated from Hannibal Elementary School. As did many of their grandchildren.

So, when the two-story brick structure went up for sale after the new buildings were opened in the Switzerland of Ohio School District in January, it was a no-brainer that they purchase it.

“They told us kids to think about how we could start a business out of it that could make money,” Rick Isaly explained of the approximately 20,000 square foot structure. “I, myself, always wanted to have a restaurant/bar, but my wife, Karla, wouldn’t go for that.”

So the former River High standout and current Pilots girls’ basketball coach went totally in the opposite direction as he created Isaly Fitness Center, which takes up a good portion of the bottom floor, along with the gymnasium. One of his sister-in-laws has opened a photography business in one of the former classrooms downstairs, while another sister-in-law will start a day care, which is scheduled to open Sept. 1, in another room.

“With me coaching and having kids playing sports, I thought this was a thing that would really go,” Rick Isaly said.

Indeed it has. As of last week, the state-of-the-art facility had 75 members, which is basically split between males and females. Approximately one-third of those members are from across the Ohio River in West Virginia, according to Rick Isaly, who added that a lot of older people have become members.

“The outfit that we bought the machines from in Atlanta called last week to see how we were doing,” he said. “We told him we had 75 members and he couldn’t believe it. He told us that usually June and July are the slowest months because of everything that goes on during the summer.”

Isaly said they have mailed out 5,000 postcards to residents of New Martinsville, Woodsfield, Powhatan, Clarington and other small communities in Eastern Ohio.

The fitness center offers a variety of bonuses that other area centers don’t, something that the owners are proud of.

“Being an old school, the building already had lockerrooms with showers and such. A lot of fitness centers don’t have that. We fixed them up a little, so now members can come in before or after work, do their workout or whatever, and then take a shower.”

Another added attraction is the hours.

“We’re open 24/7,” Rick Isaly noted. “We use the swipe-card system. I thought that would be appealing because of shift work. I hear complaints that other places aren’t open on the weekends or late at night. Our members can come-and-go as they please. All they have to do is swipe their card.”

He said there’s a little worry about being open 24/7, but that the building is equipped with a complete security camera system that is reviewed daily.

The center has three employees. It is staffed 8-10 hours Monday through Friday and for four hours on Saturdays.

“We got the key to the building on March 1 and we’ve been painting ever since,” Rick Isaly said. “We painted every block, every window frame, every door … everything. We also did some re-plumbing in the lockerrooms and a lot of re-wiring in the fitness room with the lighting. All 10 rooms are air conditioned, as well.”

The fitness center includes nautilus machines, tread mills, steppers, bikes, rowers, free weights, plate-loaded weight machines and a jungle gym. There are also two tanning beds in the facility, with one located in the women’s lockerroom.

The highlight of the center is a room strictly for workout classes. There are no machines and no instructor, just a big screen on one wall. Outside the entrance is a computer that Karla Isaly said “works like Netflix.”

“Most classes and centers have live instructors,” she explained. “With this fitness on demand everything is online. You can select what type of workout you want to do, punch it in and enter the classroom where it will appear on the wall.”

She said there are approximately 80 different types of workouts on the computer. They are broken down into cardio, strength and flexibility.

“The neat thing is you can come in and workout by yourself or you can come in and workout with a group of people,” Rick noted. “It’s like being at home watching TV and working out.”

Karla added that the center can track what types of workouts are used more than others.

“People can’t believe that we’ve got something like this here,” Rick allowed. “They tell us they’ve never seen anything like it, and it’s been very well received thus far.”

Memberships vary, according to Karla.

“We have monthly, 6-month and yearly packages,” she revealed.

Future plans call for rental space on the upper floor, with five former classrooms available for office use There is also a small gymnasium and cafeteria/kitchen that could eventually be used for wedding receptions, graduation parties, birthday parties and other activities.

The center is located on Ohio 536 in Hannibal. For more information, call (740) 213-5238, or visit