Monday, January 19, 2009

As Waistlines Expand, So Does Number Of New Gyms

“Marty McGuire is midway through a lap around the track at 7 Flags Fitness and Racquet Club in Clive, a place he says he chose decades ago because it's roughly a quarter-mile from his house. He comes here five or six times a week, and he's not interested in the shiny new gyms popping up in and around Des Moines. ‘For me, it's about convenience,’ McGuire said. ‘The better shape you're in, the better you feel. ... And hopefully, it'll slow down the aging process.’ These days, very little seems slow about the gym business in central Iowa. At least four Des Moines-area fitness clubs opened their doors within the past three months, and at least two more are expected by spring. Two other large clubs have been approved by city officials in Clive and Urbandale, although construction on one has been delayed and the other appears to have dropped any short-term construction plans. Industry insiders say the rush of new gyms has left Des Moines swimming in treadmills and dumbbells, and it's likely to leave a few victims behind when the expansion wave is complete. Nationwide, roughly 15,000 companies own 26,000 fitness clubs and recreation centers, making up a combined $15 billion industry, according to a report released this month by First Research. Local experts say the Iowa boom, which began several years ago, can be traced mostly to greater societal health awareness - especially among dedicated baby boomers like McGuire who want to keep potential health problems at bay. ‘There is a level of seriousness that people get when they are approaching their golden years,’ said Frank Santana, owner of 7 Flags. "It is really time. It's no longer time to join in January and quit in April. It's time to get serious now.’ Sheer demographics — the estimated 78 million baby boomers in the United States, each a swiftly aging potential customer — have sparked rapid expansion among franchise gyms in Des Moines and forced longtime players to adapt their games. Craig Scott, owner of New Image Fitness and Weight Loss, said his 30-year-old gym on Franklin Avenue in Des Moines was forced to remake itself after eight facilities opened over the past two years within three miles of its doors. ‘I think the market has definitely been oversaturated, and I think it's created a situation where more fitness centers are fighting over the same population,’ Scott said. ‘Honestly, I think it's a bad move, but it remains to be seen five years or seven years from now who's going to win that game.’”

No comments: