In 2012, Elite Gymnastics Academy is going from strength to strength. Over the last six months, EGA relocated to a new building twice the size of its old location and has unveiled plans to open an adjoining swim club as well.
The move was well-timed. EGA is well-positioned to take advantage of a surge of post-Olympics interest in gymnastics.
"We are already seeing a significant bump. I usually run (waivers and registration forms) in batches of 50 or 100," said Sara Spurlock, marketing director at EGA. "In two weeks later we were out. We are tracked to see significant growth."
The gym has already built a steady and devoted following since opening five years ago, under the ownership of Vadim and Oksana Balakirev, who founded the organization with his parents, Alexandr and Valentina.
The Balakirev family was well-known in the gymnastics world of both Kazakhstan and the former USSR. Both Alexandr and Valentina have over 35 years of experience. The two started their careers during the 1970s, when gymnasts from the Soviet bloc like Nadia Comăneci were some of the most formidable competitors in the world.
After immigrating to the U.S.A. in 1998, the couple coached for different clubs, but jumped at the chance to own their own gym when the opportunity arose. EGA opened in 2007, in a retail-office building off Highway 13.
At first EGA focused on team gymnastics, geared to kids who are on the USAG track, a pre-Olympic path.
"They were really good at it. Most of their teams are just phenomenal," Balakirev said. "We never leave without a trophy at competition, but we realized when we started doing it that you can't build up this great school without a very strong recreational program."
"Even at the preschool level they instruct how to do things correctly. Some schools' philoshophy is come have fun and play on the equipment," Spurlock added. "We teach them properly and build on those skills, which is one of the reasons I think we have such a strong pipeline into our team—because we don't have to overcome bad habits learned in our rec program."
Five years later, the gym offers an array of programs for kids of any ability—not just those on the USAG track. EGA even has programs for developmentally delayed children, who might otherwise be excluded from gymnastics programs.
"We won't tell anyone we won't work with them. We'll never say 'You're over 10, sorry,'" Spurlock said.
The inclusive approach has paid off. In the third or fourth year it became obvious that EGA would need a bigger place.
"We were growing super fast," Balakirev said.
Luckily, a 35,000 square foot building at 12500 Chowen Avenue appeared on the market. The building fit the specifications needed for a gymnastics facility, which requires enough space for a 42-by-42 foot floor and enough height for uneven bars and trampolines. The Balakirevs decided to buy the $2 million warehouse facility, which had previously been used as an indoor go-kart track.
The go-kart operation moved out in February. The Balakirevs began renovations that month and moved in at 2 p.m. on St. Patrick's Day. The new facility boasts state-of-the-art gymnastics equipment, a separate tots gym, dance and Zumba room, a spacious and comfortable lobby, as well as a separate party room for birthdays—and there's more to come.
"We're going to open a swim school. That's going to really compliment our program here and it will be very convenient to parents," said Balakirev, who was once a diver himself.
Construction has already begun. EGA hopes to open the swim school by mid-fall. In the meantime, they will be to show off their new digs. To find out more about EGA, go to their Facebook page or check out their YouTube channel.