October 1, 2013 – Auburn University, Auburn, AL, reopened this fall with a new addition to its campus: a 240,000 square-foot Recreation and Wellness Center.
The new $72 million facility features a five-story rock climbing wall, a PGA golf simulator, a one-third mile indoor track, and a tiger-paw shaped hot tub — a tribute to the school’s mascot — designed to hold up to 45 people. Other amenities include a multipurpose court; group fitness studios for yoga, cycling, and other classes; equipment for outdoor recreation, such as canoes and kayaks; cardio training areas; locker rooms; a game room; six regulation-size basketball courts; racquetball courts; and a pool.
“Auburn University’s new facility sounds like a state-of-the-art building that has all the elements needed to serve a population interested in fitness,” said Hugh McEvoy, Director of Sales and Operations, of EZFacility, a fitness facility management software developer in Bethpage, NY. “We’ve seen an encouraging trend on campus lately, with colleges and universities establishing innovative new spaces that show a real concern for student, faculty, and employee health. This is an exciting instance of that trend.”
The center complies with LEED standards. Construction began in 2011, after Auburn students voted to raise their fees to help fund the project.
August 29, 2013 – In-Shape Health Clubs recently opened its sixty-fifth — and largest branch — in its hometown of Stockton, CA. The new facility positions itself as the company’s flagship location, with a focus on providing services for entire families, including a “Kids Club” facility and an indoor swimming pool. Other amenities include group exercise studios, a 29-minute workout circuit, a cardio theater, exercise machines, a free-weight room, two racquetball courts, sauna and steam baths, and tanning beds.
“We’re just trying to cover all the… aspects for the community,” Rob Farrens, In-Shape’s executive vice president, told online news outlet Recordnet.com. Other In-Shape clubs also have top-quality offerings, he said, but not to the caliber, extent, and size of the newest branch. “It is just nice to have a flagship to show Stockton what we’ve been doing, where we’ve been going.”
Begun in 1981, the company has locations throughout northern and central California, and has built itself, in terms of revenue, into one of the largest clubs in the country. Though In-Shape does not disclose its financial data, Club Industry magazine pegs its 2011 revenue at $90 million. At the time, the company operated 47 locations.
“When a company as large and accomplished as In-Shape opens a new flagship location, it’s a significant event,” noted Emily Wilensky, Marketing Manager of EZFacility, a health club management software provider in Bethpage, NY. “For the industry at large, it could be taken as a hopeful sign of continued growth and expansion.”
In-Shape will employ about 40 workers at the new facility, with the aim of attracting 3,000 new club members. The company plans to open five additional new branches in the near future, and to renovate some existing facilities.
August 14, 2013 – California Ripped Fitness, a low-cost, full-service health club chain based in Lincoln, California, is opening a new location in San Jose this fall. A relative newcomer to the competitive California health club scene, the company signed a 22,000-square-foot lease and aims for an early October launch. Membership pre-sales begin this month.
“We’re looking to come in pretty aggressively and are actively looking for spots in other locations,” Nicholas Trosko, director of operations at California Ripped Fitness, told the Silicon Valley Business Journal. Competitors nearby include City Sports, which is owned by LA Fitness and operates several branches in the area; 24 Hour Fitness, another company with multiple locations near San Jose; Retro Fitness; and Total Woman.
“California Ripped Fitness is entering a highly competitive market,” said Eric Willin, COO of EZFacility, a fitness center management software provider based in Bethpage, New York, “but the company has a sound strategy and could help lift the quality of offerings in the area even higher. Given the population density in and around San Jose, it’s nearly impossible to saturate that market. Opening a location there is a smart move.”
Led by gym-industry veteran Pat Accettura, California Ripped Fitness plans to offer memberships in the $15- to $20 range — with special deals, such as a $1 enrollment fee for premier membership — while also offering many of the amenities found at more costly clubs. The new location, the company’s second, will feature personal training, group classes, tanning, and on-demand digital instructors, along with traditional weight training equipment and exercise machines.
September 12, 2013 – A new fitness facility in Fargo, North Dakota caters solely to clients age 50 and up. Welcyon Fitness After 50 offers older gym-goers an opportunity to work out without the intimidation that might attend exercising among younger patrons. Featuring low-impact equipment and a program that pairs each client with a personal trainer and a dietitian, the club aims both to help fit clients maintain healthy habits and to introduce longtime non-exercisers to new habits.
“You go to some workout clubs, you almost feel like you have to be in shape to get in shape,” Bill Rodriquez, a corporate Welcyon spokesman, told the North Dakota online news portal InForum. “We have an alternative to that.”
Emily Wilensky, Marketing Manager of EZFacility, a health club management software provider in Bethpage, NY, said that Welcyon is part of a growing trend. “More and more clubs are recognizing the powerful presence of the over-50 crowd, and are gearing up to better serve that crowd,” she said. “In the years to come, as the baby boomer demand grows stronger and the subsequent generation begins to follow in their footsteps, we will see many more facilities like Welcyon open up.”
Already, baby boomers make up the fastest growing segment of the fitness population. Over the last decade, the number of health club members over the age of 50 has grown exponentially, vastly outnumbering members in other age groups. This is not surprising, given that the baby boomer population comprises the largest demographic in the United States — one in every fifty people in the nation is over the age of 50.
Moreover, the fitness industry seems uniquely positioned to benefit from the resources of the 50-plus population. Janis Cheney, state director for AARP North Dakota, said she is not aware of any other businesses or industries, aside from the housing industry, that specialize in serving the baby boomer generation. Because that generation is invested in the idea of living longer after retirement, she suggested, it is especially focused on remaining healthy for many years.
August 9, 2013 – This month, the University of Oregon, in Eugene, Oregon, unveiled its new Hatfield-Dowlin Complex, a sports center that took eight years and approximately $68 million to complete. Dedicated to the university’s football team, the 145,000 square-foot center features two theater rooms, a barbershop, a cafeteria, state-of-the art locker rooms, a workspace for pro scouts, meeting spaces, instructional rooms, luxury offices, dining facilities, and numerous lounges.
Visually stunning, the facility was designed with two driving principles: It had to be comfortable, and it had to sustain people working very long hours. Architects and interior designers worked together to create a space that anticipates the needs of its users and provides a sense of luxury, while also allowing for both work and rest. In the coaches’ locker room, for example, a selection of aftershave and other men’s care products line the counter in front of the mirror. Televisions are embedded in the mirrors.
In the players’ locker room, each locker holds its own ventilation system in order to ensure an odor-free environment. The players’ lounge contains sofas that recline into beds, gaming stations branded with the football team’s logo, and custom-made pool tables and foosball tables. Enclosed in glass, the lounge opens onto a terrace.
“The new complex at the University of Oregon is beyond impressive,” said Emily Wilensky, Marketing Manager, of EZFacility, a sports facility software company in Bethpage, New York. “It pushes the envelope in terms of what university-based sports centers can be. It’s a place for serious work, and its beauty and embellishments will only push players to become even better. The school’s recruitment efforts will also be aided.”
Some of the other embellishments the building features include floors and walls made of walnut, pantries located in meeting rooms, the pro scout rooms, coaches’ offices, and elsewhere; blackened, magnetic, glass walls that can be written upon, and restrooms that feature wall-sized hand-laid tile mosaics that portray the team’s winning bowl game rings.
July 31, 2013 – Kai and Charles Huang, co-inventors of the popular video game Guitar Hero, recently announced a new package of games they will launch this year as fitness accessories. The games, designed for enhancing and rewarding exercise, will track physical activity while users play on mobile devices.
“The objective,” said Kai Huang, CEO of Blue Goji, the company created in 2011 to launch the workout games, “is to make [the games] so fun that you want to come back, and you want to play them, and fitness becomes a byproduct.” The games, Huang said, will be more immersive and habit-forming than other workout distractions.
An article about Blue Goji in the online tech news outlet All Things, D reported that the current prototypes for the company’s game accessories include a small activity tracker that can be clipped onto clothing, a game controller consisting of two black bands with buttons, and two lightweight batons. For bikes and ellipticals, the controller bands strap onto the machines’ built-in handles, but the batons can be used in conjunction with the bands, so that exercisers can reach all buttons without holding on to the treadmill. Both the tracker and the bands communicate wirelessly with mobile devices via Bluetooth.
Although Blue Goji has not yet named a price point, its first bundle of games is slated to come out before the 2013 holiday shopping season begins.
July 22, 2013 – YogaFit, Los Angeles, has launched YogaFit for Warriors, a certification program that teaches instructors how to help soldiers and veterans who suffer from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and traumatic injuries. Along with a focus on specific yoga postures, breathing methods, and relaxation techniques, the 100-hour program includes information on how trauma affects the brain and body.
The Veterans Administration (V.A.) announced last year that 30 percent of the Afghanistan and Iraq war veterans treated at V.A. hospitals had been diagnosed with PTSD. Previously, in 2010, a study funded by the U.S. Department of Defense and led by Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School showed that practicing yoga had relieved PTSD symptoms for many veterans. But, says Shaye Molendyke, one of the YogaFit for Warriors creators and a member of the U.S. Air Force, until now there has been no program designed to address the specific needs of such veterans.
Emily Wilensky, Marketing Manager of EZFacility, a fitness center management software provider in Bethpage, NY, noted that health programs designed to treat specific ailments are becoming increasingly popular. “In recent years,” she said, “we’ve seen a blossoming of studios and in-gym programs designed particularly for victims of violent crimes, for multiple sclerosis sufferers, for cancer patients, and more. Yoga seems adaptable to the needs of many different populations, and it’s wonderful to see that our veterans can reap its benefits.”
Molendyke stresses that teacher-training for veteran-related PTSD treatment focuses largely on learning how to speak to veterans and other trauma-sufferers. “We needed to bring it to the military in a format that wasn’t intimidating,” says Molendyke. “You can’t use Sanskrit. It can’t be command-oriented.” Instructors are also taught how to modify their classes to provide a safe environment for PTSD-sufferers.
July 3, 2013 – A start-up sports and entertainment company has proposed building a Washington, D.C.-area athletics complex that would occupy 600,000 square feet — the size of three Wal-Mart supercenters. The company’s founders, Kendrick F. Ashton, Jr. and Craig A. Dixon, say the facility, to be called the St. James Sports and Entertainment Complex, would be the largest in the region.
Ashton and Dixon grew up locally and say that, as kids, they always dreamed of having accesses to such a complex. According to their business proposal, the complex would cater to a wide range of sports, and would include six indoor tennis courts, four batting cages, two NHL-size hockey rinks, and an 80,000-square-foot multipurpose field house.
“We grew up incredibly passionate about participating in sports and getting better and pursuing certain passions,” Ashton said. “This is the kind of facility we would have liked to have had as young children growing up.”
Eric Willin, COO of EZFacility, a sports facility software management company, noted a recent trend toward the creation of gigantic complexes that offer a variety of athletic activities, along with opportunities for year-round competition and training. “The construction of such a facility in the D.C. area would have major significance,” he said. “Local athletes, students, and sports enthusiasts would have unprecedented opportunities for participation in sporting events, and the complex would likely draw sports tourists and others from all over. We’ll be interested to see how this project progresses.”
The new complex would be built on the Hensley Park playing fields, between the Beltway and Eisenhower Avenue, in Alexandria, Virginia. Ashton and Dixon pitched the project as an economic development engine for the area, which lies near where the National Science Foundation is planning to relocate in 2017. They are requesting a 40-year ground lease from the city of Alexandria, but it is not yet clear what the project would cost them or taxpayers.
June 20, 2013 – LA Fitness has announced plans to renovate its Tucson East facility in Tucson, Arizona, with a full-scale update and an expansion of more than 7,000 square feet. In addition, the California-based health club chain will remodel and update nine other sites in and around Phoenix and Tucson.
Reconstruction of the Tucson East site will take place near the end of July. Once complete, the club will feature all new cardio equipment and other updates.
At other sites, remodeling efforts are already under way, and will continue on a rolling basis throughout June and July. While specific plans vary from location to location, they include the following: refinishing hardwood floors in group fitness rooms, racquetball courts, and basketball courts; replacing the flooring in cycling studios; installing new LCD televisions; refinishing saunas; new carpeting and lighting; repainting and updating graphics; and adding new cardio machines, strength equipment, free weights, and indoor studio cycles.
“We are committed to providing state-of-the-art facilities and enhancing the LA Fitness experience with more than $4 million slated for these improvements, to ensure our members enjoy achieving their fitness goals,” Senior Vice President/Chief Real Estate Officer Bill Horner said in a company statement. He added that club members will have access to other nearby clubs when their usual locations are closed for the remodeling.
Eric Willin, COO of EZFacility, a health club management software provider in Bethpage, New York, noted that a number of health and fitness chains are currently undertaking expansion efforts. “We’re seeing more businesses choosing to open new sites or to rebuild existing ones than has been the case in recent years,” Willin said. “It’s a positive sign about the state of the health club industry. Given the American Medical Association’s decision to designate obesity as a disease, as well as other factors, we’ll probably continue to see an increase for a while to come.” Other nationwide health club chains that recently have announced plans for reconstruction or expansion include Total Woman Gym and Spa, Chicago Athletic Clubs, and UFC Gym.
LA Fitness has more than 500 locations throughout the United States and Canada. Earlier this month, the company opened its first branch in Rhode Island and announced plans to open at least six new clubs in the Detroit area.
June 25, 2013 – Last week, Texas-based Gold’s Gym International acquired all but one of the 18 fitness facilities owned by Fitness First in the Maryland, Virginia, and Washington, D.C. region. According to the news outlet Club Industry, the acquisition price was in the $30 to $40 million range, and the deal will be closed by the end of this week.
“We love the clubs because of the distribution in the D.C. area in relation to our current clubs,” Gold’s Gym CEO and president Jim Snow told Club Industry. “…It takes us to 50 clubs, both corporate and franchise, in that DC market, giving us a strong, clear competitive advantage, so this is a really nice acquisition from that perspective.”
Fitness First will continue to own and operate one club, in Bethesda, MD, because of the structure of the lease with that club’s landlord. The owner of Fitness First, Peter Harvey, told Club Industry that he was ready for a change. “I think it was a great opportunity for all sides,” he said. “It was great for me, personally, and I think it’s a great move for Gold’s.”
Hugh McEvoy, Director of Sales and Operations for EZFacility, a gym management software provider in Bethpage, NY, noted that the move seems beneficial for all involved parties, including Gold’s, Fitness First, and the members of both clubs. “Any change on this scale is going to involve a lot of transition,” he said, “but it sounds as if the customer’s concerns are a high priority in this deal, and the change is sure to be a positive one. It’s always significant,” he added, “when a major gym chain grows in such a way.”
The Fitness First clubs acquired by Gold’s will be rebranded under the Gold’s Gym name over the next six months. Gold’s will honor all current Fitness First memberships and will offer former Fitness First members access to additional Gold’s Gyms. Also, current Gold’s Gym members will be offered options granting them access to former Fitness First clubs.
Last year, Gold’s Gym made another big acquisition, taking on 11 San Antonio-area Spectrum Athletic Clubs. In total, the company has about 100 corporate-owned clubs and 675 franchised clubs.