The new place still feels like the old place.
That’s the vibe Rodney McClanahan was going for when he transplanted his Hardknox Strength & Performance Club across town in Brownsville. It looks like he succeeded.
The new 10,000-square-foot facility just off Pablo Kisel Blvd. near Sunrise Mall is over twice the size of the old club on the Military Highway in the west Brownsville neighborhoods where McClanahan grew up. The original Hardknox had a reputation for being gritty and sweaty. It had no air conditioning and a large entrance open to the elements.
The 500-plus members of the club didn’t want to lose that feel in moving to a new facility. McClanahan obliged them with the new building having a warehouse feel. The large bay doors offer a clear view into what’s “the strongest gym in Brownsville.”
McClanahan and his wife Kassandra searched high and low all over Brownsville for years to find the right spot to make the move they knew was inevitable with the club’s growth. They would go with a new building built to their specifications near the corner of Pablo Kisel and Galeno Crossing in one of Brownsville’s premier growth corridors.
“It looks new but still feels like the old place,” McClanahan said. “We still have that outside/inside effect. We didn’t want to change the vibe.”
The move-in date was Feb. 3. It was four hectic days of moving from his beloved west side of Brownsville near his alma mater, Pace High School, to the much more upscale part of town with new retailing and restaurants – and now a gym dedicated to strength and power.
McClanahan has undergraduate and master’s degrees in exercise science. He started dreaming of having his own gym when he was 10 years old, accompanying his father to weightlifting sessions at Tito’s Gym off Boca Chica Boulevard in Brownsville. Hardnox’s layout design of equipment and weights highlight McClanahan’s vision of energy-system training. It features dead-lifting, pressing and squatting.
The new facility includes more cardio equipment and what McClanahan calls a “strong room” for trained athletes and more experienced weightlifters. The terminology may sound intimidating, but he stressed the gym is open to all seeking to gain strength and fitness. His membership also reflects that aspect. McClanahan has crafted a gym of cohesion and togetherness where he and his seven coaches run hour-long classes from 5 a.m. to 8 p.m.
The connection to the community is something McClanahan stressed throughout a recent tour of his new facility.
“Moving here doesn’t change who we are or what we do,” he said. “We’re not a corporate gym, we’re from here. We’re about the community and the families here.”
On a walk-around of his new gym, McClanahan greeted all club members by their first name with an accompanying fist bump and words of encouragement. An afternoon class was starting nearby on the gym floor. Music from the 1990s was cranking up. It’s the Hardknox vibe.
“It’s such an amazing feeling to be here and to accomplish this goal,” Kassandra McClanahan said. “What makes even more special is reaching for that goal of always helping our community.”