Pros: Bally's gyms are practically everywhere.
Cons: Membership sign-up contract is a HORROR!
First, I go to a Bally's Sports Club. There are several levels of Bally's Clubs: the most significant ones are the Bally's Total Fitness gyms, Sports Clubs, Gorilla Sports Clubs. Bally's Total Fitness gyms are supposedly no frills attached gyms (without a pool, sauna, etc.). Bally's Sports Clubs do have saunas, steam baths, and sometimes pools. Gorilla Sports Clubs are one level above the Sports Clubs. Depending upon which club type you want to go to, you will end up paying more for a higher level club. Case in point: Bally's Sports Club: I pay about $55 a month for my membership. However, a friend of mine in LA pays $15 a month for his Total Fitness membership. Supposedly, depending on when you sign up for a membership, the price you pay for monthly dues AND the length of your contract may vary.
My Sports Club used to be called the City Club before it was acquired by Bally's. I signed up for a 3-year contract with Bally's. However, other people that also converted their gym membership told me that they had signed up for a 4-year contract with Bally's. Confusing! Another thing is that I read the contract in detail, line per line. Amazing -- it was incredibly long -- but I'd highly recommend it. You should know what rights you have and what rights you are contractually waiving (especially since, god forbid, you get injured at the Bally's gym, etc.). The membership guy was not forthcoming (and I suspect not knowledable) about some of the details in the contract. For instance, I pointed out to him that there is a provision which states that if one elects to pay monthly dues in installments, that a *finance charge* is assessed. This certainly sounds like a *loan* to me which you are obligated to pay for *X* number of years for which you have signed the contract. (I could be wrong on this, but it certainly sounds like it!) I saved about $10 a month (i.e., normally, it would have been $65 a month with the "finance charge" included) by paying all of my "dues" up front. (Nonetheless, I still have a mysterious $9 per month charge that gets automatically deducted from my bank account each month. I was told this would happen, but I still have no idea what this is for. But, whatever -- Bally's membership terms are confusing!)
What you should know if you are TRAVELLING:
Bally's Clubs may be everywhere, but you cannot use your membership at all Bally's Clubs. If you have a Bally's Total Fitness membership, you cannot go to a Sports Club or a higher level club...only to Bally's Total Fitness gyms. Furthermore, you may be geographically limited to certain clubs in your local area. For me, my monthly dues only covers my Bally's Sports Club. The membership guy told me that I could pay $10 extra if I wanted to use the *other* Bally's gyms (which are Total Fitness, by the way). What a rip-off! Plus, if I wanted to use Bally's Clubs nationwide, this would be a whole lot of extra $$ on top of my monthly dues! Awful. It's also interesting to note that a lot of Bally's personnel are not aware of their own company policy! Some of them have told me that all I need is a photo ID version of my Bally's membership card and I can go to any Bally's gym. Apparently, this is not technically correct.
You can get better deals with EBay:
I have to admit, I'm a true Ebay junkie. I see a lot of Bally's Total Fitness gym membership being sold for good deals (so it seems to me). Occassionally, there's a Sports Club passport up for grabs.
If you're like me, you need a gym that's relatively close by and that has the equipment you need (for me: squat rack and bench), plus people that can give me a spot when I need it. I wouldn't say Bally's is superior to any other type of health club. I've belonged to LA Fitness, for instance. But, it's a big company, and people like me have their grudges. That's life.