Women’s team gymnasts warming up for floor exercise during training at Intown Stars. (Photos by Barbara Naso)

Intown Stars will welcome the Atlanta and Decatur communities to its new multi-sport facility at 421 DeKalb Industrial Way this month following the $4 million renovation of a former storage and manufacturing space. 

“This exciting new expansion will be done in two phases,” Intown Stars owner and CEO Anna Santiago said. “Half of the 75,000 square-foot building will open for gymnastics, parkour, camps, parties, community events, and our newest program, Intown Stars Dance. I really want this place to be about sports and bringing the community together.”  

On the ground floor is a fully-equipped 25,000 square foot space with natural light, fresh paint, and massive ceiling fans that will house gymnastics and parkour; the practice of traversing obstacles from one point to another by running, jumping, climbing, etc. 

“Parkour is one of the fastest growing sports,” Santiago said. “We cater to who is in our community – and the kids in our community clearly want something fun and different, because our parkour program has hundreds of kids on the waitlist. So, we quadrupled the size of our space to accommodate them. Parkour also brought in more boys who do parkour and gymnastics.” 

The ground floor also includes Intown Stars Dance’s studio complete with professional dance floors and a parent observation area. Flowing from there are more rooms for a future afterschool program, art program, and a sizable outdoor play space – where Santiago envisions a sandbox, swing set, and jungle gym.

Up on the second floor, a large parent observation lounge overlooks the gymnastics/parkour space. Down the hall is Santiago’s office. 

“I wanted to be close to the parents – to talk with them and stay connected,” Santiago said. 

There are also four different studios on the second floor available to rent for classes, events, and parties and named for constellations: Big Dipper, Little Dipper (more of a meeting space), Orion (with a kitchenette), and Polaris (with lots of windows and natural light).

Intown Stars owner Anna Santiago and her sons with Olympic Gold Medal Gymnast, Laurie Hernandez.

Santiago wants the studios to serve as a business incubator, recalling the challenges she faced 10 years ago when she was newly divorced and needed a place to teach gymnastic classes. 

“I want to offer up those spaces for other entrepreneurs, to start or scale a business,” Santiago said. 

Over a decade, Santiago has built Intown Stars from a tiny program in a neighborhood church Sunday School room into one of the largest gymnastics centers in the southeast, with 80 employees and 1,700+ children coming through every week. 

A success Santiago graciously shares with her core executive team.

“Anna engages her employees in a shared mission – to build leaders – among themselves and the students,” explained Damon Vance, owner of Relevance Building Solutions, who led the new multi-sport facility construction and is Santiago’s business partner. 

For example, Chief Operations Officer Brittany Baker, started as a gymnastics coach in 2017 and runs the day-to-day operations as Santiago’s “right-hand woman”.

“The best moments are when the children are begging their parents not to leave,” Baker said. “As long as that keeps happening, Intown Stars will keep growing as a leader in youth sports for Atlanta.” 

That growth includes being home one of the largest gymnastics teams in the Southeast.

A rendering of the new Intown Stars facility in Decatur.

“Georgia hasn’t seen a world-class gym with so much variety and diversity for competitive gymnastics, let alone sports across the board,” said Ashley McCracken, Intown Stars Gymnastic Teams Director.

“One of the reasons Intown Stars has been able to thrive is Anna’s ability to be flexible and adaptable with how the business provides services to the community, based on its needs, Vance said. “This new, larger space is critical to that.”

Projected to open in 2023, the second phase on the north side of the building will feature 10 batting cages, a large space with professional court flooring for a roller rink, and sports like basketball and volleyball plus a strength and conditioning center. 

“For an entrepreneur, having this huge space to create in – it’s like being in a candy store and told you can have anything you want,” Santiago said.

Learn more at intownstarsatl.com.

Clare S. Richie

Clare S. Richie is a freelance writer and public policy specialist based in Atlanta.