We’re not a Chain Gym, we are a people focused gym, focusing on you, focusing on our City Gym Family.
Sydney’s iconic City Gym officially opened its doors in 1978 to a burgeoning fitness and bodybuilding industry.
1978 was an equally auspicious year for the Australian community, marking the year of the first Sydney Mardi Gras parade.
Mardi Gras ’78 was Sydney’s contribution to the international gay solidarity celebrations and a daring act of political activism for its time.
It was an event that started as a small group of protesters, bravely banding together in a climate of fear, ignorance and discrimination, in defiance of archaic and discriminatory laws. Resultant was the arrival of police and paddy wagons, which ensued in chaos, unprovoked violence, police brutality and arrests.
The Kings Cross locals however gathered and supported in force, a unity that reflected the sympathetic undercurrent of the time.The media reaction and subsequent outcry created a defining night in not only Sydney’s gay community, but in Australia’s cultural heritage.
The 70s witnessed the proliferation of gay political organisations, lobbying the government for non-discriminatory policies in employment, housing and many other aspects of civil society, protection for gay, lesbian and transgender individuals, and the securing of equal rights.
City Gym co-founder Billy Moore witnessed the LGBTQI struggles first hand.Frustrated at the blatant discrimination and homophobia, he was determined to create a gym space that was a safe haven for the LGBTQI community.What evolved was an all-inclusive social space: a meeting place for all demographics, cultural diversities, sexualities, gender identities.
The 70s and 80s established City Gym as one of Sydney’s most famous social and cultural hubs.
It was a normal day in the life to work-in on a bench press with any of Sydney’s top personal trainers, or asking for a spot from a more than obliging lauded bodybuilder.No hierarchy, no pecking order.
It was at City Gym that you assumed your position on the aerobics floor, doing it ‘Oz-Style’ with Group Fitness gurus like TV personality June Jones. Our innovative group fitness classes were a progenitor of a group fitness programme prototype still used universally today.
City gym was a metropolis, a rendezvous for a catch up with friends, a place to cruise for a romantic interlude or “good time”. No one cared and no one judged.There was no other gym of its kind.
City Gym became the Mecca of the sporting elite, Olympic champions, Hollywood superstars, music industry legends, world class bodybuilders. And yes, of course your average Joe, there to unwind and sweat out the day’s stresses after a hard 9-5 grind at the office.
It was a melting pot of all and sundry, a family, a second home.
What other gym could boast the line-up of world famous identities?
On any given day you could find yourself shoulder pressing beside legends like Arnold Schwarzenneger, Tom Platz and Dorian Yates, the list of greats is endless. You may even find yourself in our waiting room’s hallowed Wall of Fame, kicking back with the likes of Jane Fonda, Grace Jones, The Rock and Hugh Jackman.
This rich tapestry of weird and wonderful personalities and offbeat characters attributed City Gym the reputation as the fitness industry’s source of dubious (and often hilarious) urban myths and legends, most of which we choose not to confirm or deny!
City Gym earned its moniker, “the gay gym” in the late 70s and proudly held on to this label for the next 30 years. We boasted a membership that was predominately gay and proudly shouted it to the world. Any hint of homophobia or discrimination was not tolerated. Unprecedented and visionary for its time, City gym set a standard, creating a product on which other fitness centres used as a model.
City Gym Mardi Gras floats became annual event that became biggest party on the fitness calendar with participation open to all. The gym became an unofficial a meeting and rehearsal space for many floats in the parade. We were a tourist hot-spot, attracting a plethora of Australian and overseas visitors who would make the annual trek to be a part of one of the world’s most outrageous and enviable parties.
The Mardis Gras theme took a serious turn in the 80s and 90s. The fight against the AIDS epidemic was now at the forefront. It became a recurring discourse and developed as a platform for raising HIV/AIDS awareness; a discussion shunned by the media and uncomfortable topic for the community as a whole.The fear was palpable. Misinformation was widespread, discrimination escalated, blame and retribution abounded.
Our City Gym family was becoming disseminated in the 90s during the peak of the AIDS epidemic. Many of our much-loved members were being struck down, including our beloved manager Peter Vincent who passed away in 1991 on World Aids Day.
It was in 1986 that present owner Billy Kokkinis (Billy Jr) joined the gym crew as a young, enthusiastic and impressionable 15 year old. Billy Moore taught Billy the machinations of a successful gym, including his ideology of equality, protection, support, compassion and respect for all. To this day Billy Jr has not wavered from this ethos.
City Gym survived the 90s trials and tribulations and moved in the new millennium with even more fervour and passion. New Director Thoath Sik took over the reins after Billy Moore’s retirement and vowed to maintain the same advocacy and equal rights’ support demonstrated by his predecessor.
The early 2000s witnessed the arrival of a new and stylised fitness centre franchises. Unphased and remaining stoic, City Gym resolved to maintain its “old school” feel, refusing to follow to the cookie cutter prototype. This meant serious competition. We didn’t need to step up our game. We already offered a unique and quality product that catered to the needs and demands of our members. We listened and provided. Our family atmosphere could never be matched. Our history of all-inclusiveness and social consciousness afforded us a reputation unrivalled by any other gym.
The sad passing of Thoath, and constant changes of management teams and management styles in the late 2000s, were major contributors to the recent downturn in the gym’s popularity. The state of the economy, increased competition and local infrastructure changes were also key factors in the gym’s decline.
These years witnessed a mass exodus of long term members, including our extended LGBTQI family, our staunch Group Fitness posse, our world-renowned bodybuilding crew and our loyal casual guests. Even some of our much-loved long-term staff members were calling it a day.
Gym politics and the toxic atmosphere that promulgated had potentially spelled out the end of a Sydney icon.
Step up the aforementioned Billy (Jr) Kokkinis. More than 40 years of loyal service was not about to be lost to the City Gym stalwart. Billy felt bound by this loyalty and felt he owned the responsibility of preserving the institution that truly meant everything to him.
Billy, along with co-director Andy Mamasioulas are City Gym’s new owners. The rebuild has now begun.
City Gym’s current mission statement is not a new one. Billy and Andy will continue to maintain the protection of the community from discrimination, to regard all as equal individuals who possess the same rights and responsibilities as others.
They will continue to support the city’s long history of LGBTQI activism, and warmly welcome back the many members that were once an integral part of this great institution.
We have started moving forward and setting high goals. A major refurbishment has already begun, based on members’ requests and on old faithful frameworks that have been successful in the past.
Plans are already in the works for major collaborations with local LGBTQI businesses and community groups, a 2020 City Gym Mardis Gras float, sponsorships of important charities and many other exciting ventures.
See you all here at City Gym!