New, affordable gym brands, like Planet Fitness and Blink Fitness, have opened in the Bronx to meet a booming demand for workout options

When doctors look at obesity rates in the Bronx, they see a problem. Two of three adults in the borough are obese or overweight.

But when fitness clubs look at the statistics, they see an opportunity. The Bronx is undergoing a weight room boom, with local and national chains suddenly competing for patrons in neighborhoods far outside Manhattan.

Jim Somoza, chief development officer at Crunch Fitness, said the trend is a win-win: gym brands can expand and promote healthy living at the same time.

“Everybody is growing in the outer boroughs right now,” Somoza said. “The interest in the Bronx is about density and lack of competition. The outer boroughs have been ignored over the years.”

Low-cost gyms are driving the trend, he said. Crunch currently operates pricey clubs in Manhattan and brownstone Brooklyn but is planning to launch a no-frills line soon, starting in the Bronx.

Planet Fitness was the first low-cost chain to achieve nationwide success and the first to target the Bronx, said brand manager John Craig. The New Hampshire-based company had no gyms in the borough just a few years ago.

That changed fast. Planet Fitness currently boasts eight gyms in the Bronx, more than it operates in any other borough. It charges $10 per month.

“We realized that there was a lack of competition,” Craig said. “[The Bronx] was overlooked.”

He said the response has been overwhelming; Bronx residents are desperate to exercise.

“People have embraced our product with a passion,” he said.

Meanwhile, competitors have been taking notes. Blink Fitness, a low-cost line launched in 2011 by the upscale Manhattan chain Equinox, is sprinting to catch up.

The new brand recently opened a gym in Melrose and plans to add Parkchester and Concourse Village locations soon. Blink gyms cost $15-20 per month; Equinox clubs cost $170.

“The Bronx offers us a good business opportunity in harmony with what our corporate culture is. We want to open doors to better health for the community,” said Dos Condon, vice president.

Blink patron Frank Fajar, 46, said the fitness club boom could be linked to the overall revitalization of the Bronx. The Melrose gym is located on the ground floor of a huge new housing complex.

“When I grew up here, this was all rubble,” the retired NYPD cop said. “Now there are businesses coming, people buying property.”

Before Blink opened, Fajar drove to a gym in faraway Co-op City. The Bronx boasts beautiful parks and recently added a free outdoor gym for adults, but many residents are scared to exercise outside due to crime, Fajar said.

Melrose resident Gesary Huff, 31, switched to Blink from a more costly club in Manhattan.

She said more of her Bronx friends would work out if they had access to clean, cheap gyms.

“This is good for the neighborhood,” said Huff, a stylist who recently lost 45 pounds. “I can walk here and walk home. It encourages people to be healthy.”

Crunch hopes to open its first low-cost gym at the Kingsbridge Armory. The brand is part of a bid to redevelop the vacant structure.

“The issue with Manhattan is rent,” Somoza said. “It can be hard to make an operation work there. But the Bronx is huge and there are a lot of people up there who want to work out.”

Crotona Park is becoming the Wimbledon of the Boogie Down, thanks to a $22 million tennis project underway at the leafy site.

The park is already the heart of tennis in the borough. For two decades, it has hosted the EmblemHealth Bronx Open professional tennis tournament - and the 2012 edition bounces off there Sunday.

But when the 12,600-square-foot Cary Leeds Center for Tennis and Learning is complete, along with 10 bubble-covered courts and two outdoor stadium courts, the Bronx park will rank among the top tennis meccas anywhere, gushed Skip Hartman, chairman emeritus of New York Junior Tennis and Learning, the organization formerly known as the New York Junior Tennis League.

Plans for the public-private project were recently finalized.

NYJTL will manage free youth programs at the Cary Leeds Center, hoping to discover the next Roger Federer or Venus Williams.

Hartman said the clubhouse and new courts will allow it to serve 2,000 Bronx youth and host up to 20 events each year in addition to the marquee Bronx Open.

NYJTL plans to break ground on the clubhouse this fall and complete the work in 2014.

"There will be no better site in the metropolitan region for a college tournament or United States Tennis Association tournament,” he said. “These events are going to bring tourists to the Bronx.

"The Yankees are great but the people who go to Yankee Stadium don’t spend time in the Bronx. The people who come here will."

The project includes $13 million in public funds to renovate 20 existing courts, install two five-court bubbles for winter use and build two stadium courts with bleachers for 400 spectators.

It also includes $9 million in NYJTL cash for the Cary Leeds Center, a two-story clubhouse with locker rooms, classrooms, community space, a tennis equipment shop and a handicapped accessible viewing platform.

Pro tennis player Cary Leeds was a Wimbledon semifinalist and later a coach who died in 2003.

Work began in 2010 and the city has already renovated 10 existing courts. But the rest of the project was put on hold until this June, when the City Council allocated additional funds.

In return for the public support, NYJTL will pay rent and provide at least 6,500 hours of free tennis programs each year.

The nonprofit organization is excited to make Crotona Park its citywide headquarters because 10 public schools border the park and 10 more are located fewer than 10 blocks away, said Ron Nano, NYJTL tennis director.

NYJTL currently serves 200 Bronx youth at Crotona Park via summer camp. But when the Cary Leeds Center is complete, it will launch an afterschool program with homework help and test prep to help youth apply to selective high schools and colleges.

The clubhouse will be a “beehive of activity,” Hartman said.

"Serving more Bronx kids is our goal," said summer camp coach Vernon Spady, 26, a Bronx native who attended NYJTL programs when he was growing up. "This is where it counts."

The architect of the clubhouse received an award last month from Mayor Bloomberg and the Public Design Commission for its plan, which features glass windows above the stadium courts.

During the winter, NYJTL will use some of the bubble-covered courts for programs and rent the rest for $30-$60 an hour. In contrast, courts at the swanky new tennis center on Randalls Island rent for $72 to $105 an hour.

During the summer, at least 15 Crotona Park courts will remain open to the public at all times.