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Fitness Club's Music So Loud Neighbors Can 'Shazam' Songs 3 Floors Up

By Mina Bloom | November 11, 2015 6:35am
 One of the homeowners, Nikki Drake, pointing to where Sproing Fitness is located in relation to her bedroom window.
One of the homeowners, Nikki Drake, pointing to where Sproing Fitness is located in relation to her bedroom window.
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DNAinfo/Mina Bloom

OLD TOWN — The way homeowner Nikki Drake describes it, most days her 15-month-old daughter, Maren, wakes up and goes to bed, she's serenaded — not by a soft lullaby — but by thumping dance music and a fitness instructor shouting over a microphone.

"She'll know how to count down from four before any of her friends because she's been hearing it a hundred times a day," said Drake, who lives in a condo at 205 W. Eugenie St. above Sproing Fitness, 1652 N. Wells St. 

Drake and her neighbors recently filed a lawsuit against Sproing, alleging that the fitness center's loud aerobics classes — which are conducted seven days a week as early as 5:30 a.m. and as late as 8:30 p.m. — have prevented them from going to sleep and holding conversations, and interfere with work and social plans. There are a total of 10 residences in the building.

 Sproing Fitness, 1652 N. Wells St., opened last year.
Sproing Fitness, 1652 N. Wells St., opened last year.
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DNAinfo/Mina Bloom

But Paul Toback, who owns Sproing, said he's been nothing but accommodating. He said the homeowners have been on a crusade to drive him out of business since "day one."

The lawsuit is the culmination of at least 1½ years of complaints, Drake said. 

Drake said at first she and her neighbors tried to resolve the situation "amicably" by asking instructors and Toback to turn it down and install better soundproofing.

But those attempts were "ignored," according to Drake and the lawsuit.

Toback, who was a senior executive at Bally Total Fitness before founding Sproing Fitness with his partner, Steve Lenz, told DNAinfo Chicago that he believes the homeowners "are deliberating trying to drive out a small business." 

"We believe [this] is sheer harassment and they will settle for nothing less than perfect quiet as defined by them," he said.

Mina Bloom says there's no quick resolution in sight:

He called the homeowners' complaints "unreasonable," adding that his business installed thousands of dollars in soundproofing before moving in and turned down the bass on multiple occasions to be accommodating, but he said the homeowners are never satisfied. 

Some of the concessions he's made, Toback said, have "dramatically impacted" his business. He can't "run the fitness center the way [he] wants" when the the bass is turned off, he said. And he said customers are not pleased when police are called and officers interrupt class. Drake confirmed that she and her neighbors have called the police multiple times, with the officers eventually telling them to stop calling because there wasn't much they could do.

Another homeowner, Christine Murray, who has owned her condo since 2011, called the aerobics classes a "tremendous disturbance." 

Murray said Sproing has been noisy since 2013, when the fitness center was under construction while she was at home recovering from a stem cell transplant. Sproing opened last year.

"Since then, I've been trying really hard to take care of myself, trying to do things like yoga, exercise. I just couldn't do it because it was so loud. Then I was pregnant and it was the same thing," she said.

Drake, who has lived in the condo for almost two years, said the music is so loud that the smartphone app Shazam can identify the songs being played in the gym even from the second and third floors. She works at home at least two days a week as a management consultant. 

Meanwhile, she said she has worked out at Equinox, where her instructor told the class that they couldn't throw weighted sand bags because it might disturb the neighbors.

"I thought, 'Wow, wouldn't it be so nice if Paul's instructor said this,'" she said.

Both Drake and Murray said they are considering moving but fear they won't be able to sell their condos if the issue doesn't get resolved. 

"We really don't want to continue living here unless this gets resolved. There's no way we'd invest a single dollar in this place because we wouldn't enjoy living here. But right now, we'd be unable to sell this unit," Drake said.

In the lawsuit, Drake and her neighbors are asking for Sproing to to fix the noise level or give up its lease. They're also asking for an undisclosed amount in damages. 

The condo association's attorney, Alan Farkas, called Sproing's alleged lack of responsibility "untenable."

"If they can't be a good neighbor, they can't be a neighbor," he said.

In response, Toback said he's prepared to fight in court and doesn't expect to reach an easy resolution.

"We have a valid lease to run a health club and we are not violating the lease or any law," Toback said.

Drake said she would like to reach a resolution, rather than be forced to move.

"This is so silly that we can't work this out. We love the neighborhood where we live. That's why we all live here," Drake said.

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