Strictly Come Dancing champion and former Emmerdale star Kelvin Fletcher will be a special guest as a gym destroyed by an arson attack five weeks ago reopens tomorrow (Saturday, February 26).
He will be among local celebrities turning up at the Unit Fitness Saddleworth in the Saddleworth village of Delph.
Owner Ben Bamforth has invested more than £400,000 in rebuilding the gym in Gatehead Mill on Delph New Road, which was torched two days before it was due to open in January.
The arsonists were caught on CCTV but so far police have been unable to make any arrests.
Ben, 32, a father-of-one and who with wife Harriet is expecting a second child soon, told how the attack left him ‘a bit of a broken man’.
“The insurance cover was due to kick in two days after the fire,” he told the Manchester Evening News. “So in essence, I’ve had to find £400,000.
“The fire alarms were due to be fitted on the day the attackers struck. It was a bit of a crazy time.
“I’m so chuffed Kelvin’s coming. He’s a great lad and he’s from Oldham, so it should be a great day.”
However, Ben, himself a former personal trainer, said he has been ‘blown away’ by the kindness of local people in Delph, particularly one local electrician, who refused to take any money for the work he carried out on the gym.
“I never even thought about not trying to reopen,” said upbeat Ben. “The quote for the initial clean-up was £60,000, but we managed to get that down to £35,000 by hiring the equipment and doing it ourselves.
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“At the end of the day, I had seven personal trainers who couldn’t earn any money plus other staff.”
The downside for Ben is that his insurance premium for the gym has now tripled.
Ben already had a track record as a successful gym owner. He launched Unit Fitness Holmfirth seven years ago and it’s still going strong.
“I can’t wait to see all the people training,” he said. “The amount of people who have helped us is phenomenal. I’m so grateful to the local community. It’s been very heartwarming.”
Ben says the gym will be open 24/7 to cater for people working in the hospitality industry who wok unsociable shifts.