BANGOR, Maine — One of the most well-known mixed martial arts facilities in the Northeast is likely to be without a home as of Wednesday.
Young’s MMA, which has leased space at the former Bangor YMCA on Hammond Street for the past 2 1/2 years, is being displaced from that location in conjunction with the sale of that building to Penobscot County for $825,000.
County officials initially determined that Young’s MMA and another tenant, CityReach Church, could remain in the building through the end of their current leases. That stance changed when it was learned that the facility was found to be in violation of city codes regarding its sprinkler system and fire safety upgrades.
Jeremy Martin, director of the Bangor Code Enforcement Division, sent a letter dated April 5 outlining the violations to the building’s owner, 127 Hammond St., LLC, of Bangor. He said the building was inspected March 16.
“As of the moment I do not have any place to go,” said Young’s MMA founder and co-owner Chris Young. “I’ve been pretty much living on my phone, driving around, meeting people, looking at places. It’s been pretty much a nonstop process.
“As of now it looks like we’re going to be homeless for a little bit.”
Young’s MMA, which Young started in the basement of his Brewer home shortly after mixed martial arts was legalized in Maine in 2009, has grown steadily. First it moved to a site on outer Hammond Street in Bangor for four years before renting even larger quarters at the former YMCA.
Young’s MMA has become a training ground for such local fighters as Bruce Boyington, Ray Wood and Ryan Sanders. Each has advanced to regional and national competition while Young’s expanded into a martial arts and fitness club for a clientele of as many as 200 people depending on the time of year.
“The bad part about all of this is not only the business that I’ve been growing for the last several years but the families that have been coming to the gym for years,” said Young. “They’re displacing families and there are a lot of people who are very, very hurt by this. They’re upset at what’s happening to this gym right now.”
One of Young’s major disappointments is that code enforcement officials inspected the former YMCA only after Penobscot County began to consider acquiring the building and its adjacent parking lot by eminent domain.
“For me it was really upsetting because I had been in this building for 2 1/2 years and no one said anything, so if this building was so unsafe there, where was everyone?” said Young. “Where was code coming here to protect me?”
Young said the gym lease expires in July and that he had spent some time looking into other sites as an possible alternative to re-upping that agreement.
“This wasn’t something that completely caught me off guard,” said Young, who added that his effort to gain an extension on his displacement date was denied. “I expected to be able to stay out my lease, and then if I wanted to I could re-negotiate and lengthen the lease.
“It’s the timing that really caught me off guard. It went from having several months to having two weeks, and obviously you can’t do much in two weeks.”
Young hopes to find a new site as soon as possible in order to continue offering services with minimal interruption.
“The main goal right now is to find a temporary location right now where I can make the transition seamless,” he said. “The thing that would be really devastating is if I have to shut my doors for any significant amount of time.
“If I have to shut my doors for a week while I transition into a temporary spot, it’s no big deal. If I have to shut my doors for three or four months, that’s a problem.”
Young said he appreciates the support he has received from the public during these uncertain times for his business. A recent Facebook post outlining the situation had drawn more than 12,000 views as of late Saturday afternoon.
“People are really upset about this and it just shows what we’ve built at Young’s,” he said. “I feel like I’ve built something that’s kind of unstoppable at this moment, the best they can do is slow it down a little bit.
“I’m optimistic. I came from a 600-square foot basement, so I’m going to make this work. It’s probably going to be a tough road for a little bit but it will all work out in the end. We’ll probably come back bigger and better.”