Renovation will turn east Wichita rink into mixed martial arts, boxing academy

Renovation will turn east Wichita rink into mixed martial arts, boxing academy

Wichita Business Journal – by Chris Moon

The owners of Laselva Mixed Martial Arts will buy the former Skate East location at 1836 S. Woodlawn.

The deal is set to close today. The purchase price is $345,000.

The move will quadruple the space of Laselva MMA, which opened for business two years ago in the former Dane Design building on east Kellogg. The business has 200 members.

“I think we’re going to be the best martial arts academy in the Midwest. The place is huge,” says Marcio Laselva, a co-owner and head trainer in the business.

The company offers jiu jitsu, boxing, kick-boxing and fitness classes. Its members participate in mixed martial arts competitions nationally.

“It’s been great. With the economy being like this, we’re growing like crazy. We’re running out of space,” Laselva says.

The business started two years ago “almost like an expensive hobby,” says Dr. Shawn Carpenter, one of two local anesthesiologists who helped fund the gym.

Carpenter says he trained with Laselva when the Brazilian jiu jitsu instructor was working at Genesis Health Clubs. Laselva came to Wichita from Brazil to help start a jiu jitsu program at the Wichita health club.

But Carpenter and another doctor, Chris Hubener, convinced Laselva to move out on his own. Carpenter and Hubener both work for Wichita Anesthesiology Chtd.

They leased the former Dane Design building at 6809 E. Kellogg Dr., a 5,000-square-foot structure near Kellogg and Woodlawn.

Carpenter says Laselva began training with just four students. He says the gym now has 80 students practicing jiu jitsu. Laselva has hired other instructors to teach other disciplines, such as kick-boxing.

“We’re trying to let people know we do a number of mixed martial arts,” Carpenter says.

The former Skate East building will enable the business to install a full boxing ring. The partners plan to spend $200,000 to renovate the building. Netco Commercial will do the work.

Changing Use
Its a far different use than the building has had since it was constructed in 1979 by Jim Wells, owner of the Skate East and Skate South roller skating rinks.

At 82, Wells closed Skate East about three months ago and put it on the market. He also is trying to sell Skate South, at 1900 E. MacArthur.

He called the skating rink “a fantastically successful business” in the early years. Lately, however, there’s been less interest in roller skating. Wells says video games are partly to blame.

“Young people in those days, we considered them participants. ... It seems like young people have become spectators,” he says.

But Wells says he is excited about the new use for the structure.

Tymber Lee, of NAI John T. Arnold Associates Inc., helped broker the deal on the building.

Laselva says the gym could double its number of students within six months because of the additional class space at the Skate East location.

But Carpenter says growth isn’t the driving goal. The gym today nets only a small profit, $3,000 to $4,000 per month, he says.

“I guess the sky’s the limit. My most important thing is I want a great place to train,” Carpenter says. “I’m not doing this for the money.”

The average member pays $65 a month, depending on the classes he or she takes. An all-access membership costs $150 a month. At least initially, those prices aren’t expected to change with the new facility.

Rodney Steven II, owner of Genesis Health Clubs, says mixed martial arts remains a niche industry in Wichita.

“It’s pretty serious martial arts that they’re doing over there,” he says of Laselva.

He says he brought Laselva to Wichita after hearing about him from a business associate who traveled in Brazil. Steven says he no longer has a jiu jitsu program but does offer tae kwon do and kick-boxing. He says people remain interested in those activities, but mostly as a way to stay fit, rather than to compete.

“I think everything is staying strong, quite honestly,” he says.

Laselva Mixed Martial Arts
Location: 6809 East Kellogg Dr., Wichita, Kan., 67207.
Phone: (316) 260-6595.
Owners: Shawn Carpenter, Chris Hubener and Marcio Laselva.