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Ex-Bill relocates fitness business to Pearl Street in $1 million rehab

A former NFL player-turned-fitness pro has tackled a $1 million project in downtown Buffalo's theater district to cement his fitness business.

Former Buffalo Bills linebacker Bob Bateson has relocated his Body Blocks gym from 255 Delaware Ave. to a refurbished building at 496 Pearl St., behind Studio Arena Theater, to continue his 18-year downtown run.

"I had plenty of offers to leave downtown for suburban locations, but I couldn't see myself being anywhere else," Bateson said. "I started my business here and am happy to be part of all the investment and growth that's taking place."

Bateson, whose resume includes stints with the New Jersey Generals of the defunct United States Football League, the Canadian Football League's Hamilton Tiger-Cats, and an Italian league, as well as the Bills, began Body Blocks in 1988 as a personal training service in 200-square-feet of rented space on Delaware Avenue.

He moved the business to a 2,000-square-foot facility at 255 Delaware Ave. in 1998, adding nutritional counseling, sports massage and tanning beds to the line-up.

Late last year Bateson purchased a two-story office building on Pearl Street and totally gutted the structure to create a state-of-the-art workout venue. Some four tons of structural steel were brought in to allow Bateson to develop a three-level facility that includes multiple workout areas, a massage room, locker rooms, and a nutrition center.

With 7,000-square-feet of space, Bateson is now offering self-guided workout memberships, in addition to the personal training services on which he built his business. He's also obtained an exclusive contract with EFI Sports Medicine of San Diego, to offer the company's Gravity training and rehabilitation system. The machines, which rely on the user's body weight as resistance, are available for solo and group workouts.

The new, expanded Body Blocks site will also serve as strength and conditioning venue for the Buffalo Rapids of the American Basketball Association. Bateson is also serving as the new team's strength and conditioning coach.

He's also partnering with Vito's and Spot Coffee to sell coffee and light food items, along with his own health-conscious smoothies. He said those relationships are evidence of the synergy of the downtown business community.

Bateson said the building's location in a state Empire Development Zone was a big plus in outfitting the fitness center.

"The Empire Zone tax credits were very helpful in purchasing the equipment for the facility. We also expect the credits to reduce our utility expenses," he said.

Mayor Anthony M. Masiello took part in a ceremonial ribbon cutting at the business on Wednesday, commending Bateson on his recommitment to downtown Buffalo.

"This kind of facility fits so well into the downtown puzzle and our efforts to make downtown a place where people can work, live and recreate," Masiello said.

Bateson's wife, Paula, is his business partner, handling marketing duties, as well as sales of food, beverages and apparel.


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