Monday, September 15, 2008

Fitness Trends in the Berkshires

“Gyms the size of nightclubs. Rows of treadmills equipped with their own television sets. Twenty-four-hour service. Pizza nights. Say hello to the new face of fitness in the Berkshires, where health clubs operated by three national chains recently opened in a market that traditionally has been serviced by locally owned facilities. Twelve facilities in Berkshire County fit the description of health clubs or gymnasiums, in addition to more community-oriented, multi-purpose facilities such as the Berkshire South Community Center in Great Barrington and the Pittsfield and North Adams YMCAs. ‘I think chains like that work out very, very well in the larger metro areas,’ said Mario DeMartino, who has run a physical therapy business, which includes a small workout facility, in Pittsfield for 46 years. ‘I think the mom and pop gyms work better in the rural areas. Pittsfield is not a big urban area like New York City or Albany.’ DeMartino said he believes that interest in the new facilities is high because they've just opened. Tucker, who co-owns five other Planet Fitness clubs in Western Massachusetts, refers to Berkshire County as an ‘untapped market.’ David M. Rooney, president of the Berkshire Economic Development Corporation, said the addition of the new health clubs is good for the county because the fitness chains see a ‘market opportunity’ here. Regardless, Rooney said, the competition is good because it creates opportunities for entrepreneurs to see if the market will grow. Another plus is the number of jobs created by the new facilities. John Gaudreault, one of the four owners of Pittsfield's Retro Fitness franchise, said his firm did an extensive demographic survey before coming to the Berkshires in May. The survey included determining the population within a one-, three-, five-, and seven-mile radius of the proposed location in the Shops at Unkamet Brook. According to the International Health, Racquet & Sports Association, a Boston-based not-for-profit organization that monitors the health-club industry, travel time is an important factor in determining health-club location. In the suburbs, 80 to 90 percent of health-club members live within a 12- to 15-minute drive of their facility, according to the IHRSA. Massachusetts is a growing market for health clubs. According to the IHRSA, the number of clubs statewide increased by 82 percent, from 458 to 833, between 1996 and 2007. An average of 19.2 percent of the state's population held a health-club membership between 2005 and 2007.”

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