Friday, November 14, 2008

The Buzz: New Gym Hopes To Go The Distance

“One would expect that if three marathoners got together to open a health club, it would be well run. That’s the intention of three athletic women who will helm the new Lake Park Swim & Fitness, an upscale full-service gym with a pool that opens Monday at 5 a.m. in Menasha. The gym’s three operating partners — Megan Collins, Felicia Christianson and Jane Dias — intend to give the place a new management style as on-site owners. ‘We’re focusing on service and making it a place where members have a sense of belonging,’ Collins said. Right now, they’re putting final touches on the facility at 730 Lake Park Road, the former Athletica Fitness, which operated from September 2003 to May 2007 before going into receivership and closing. The gym had been financed by the city to be a draw for lot sales in its upscale Lake Park Villas residential development and was previously run by the city’s development partner, Wisco Enterprises. The three new owners, plus six silent investors, put $875,000 into the purchase of the land, building and equipment. They brought the opening cost to nearly $1 million by sprucing up the facility, making some fixes to the pool and turning the separate clubhouse into a child care building. So far, they say response to the reopening has been positive. ‘We sold 300 memberships the first day, many of them to previous members,’ said Collins. They now have about 350 individual, couple and family memberships. Dias said that translates to about 450 members. ‘What we’re doing differently is memberships are month-to-month and don’t require a contract,’ said Christianson. Nationally, health clubs have seen a slight dip in membership numbers in the most recent statistics available. Total memberships nationwide dropped about 3 percent to 41.5 million in 2007, the first decline in a decade, according to the International Health, Racquet & Sportsclub Association, a trade group representing health clubs. ‘Some clubs are affected, but it’s a statistically insignificant change because revenues have gone up from $17.6 billion in 2006 to $18.5 billion in 2007,’ said IHRSA spokeswoman Kara Thompson. ‘We’re seeing members put more money into non-dues items, like personal training, massage and nutritional counseling.’ She said even in this tough economy, many people view gym memberships as a preemptive measure to avoid chronic problems down the road. ‘It’s not a luxury,’ she said. “It’s an investment in their health.’”

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