Statistics indicating the critical importance of promoting community health abound. Whether it’s the impact on medical costs, juvenile crime, or the overall outlook of residents, it’s clear that cities should prioritize putting structures and programs in place that make it easy and enticing for community members to get fit.
That’s why communities like Bridgeport, WV and many others are making the decision to develop fitness centers that meet the needs of their citizens. While data supports the impact of placing fitness and recreation centers in communities, it’s not as simple as building a space, putting in a bunch of elliptical machines and free weights, and opening the doors. With over 41,000 fitness centers throughout the United States, competition is fierce for members in nearly every town. Understanding the needs of your community and developing programming to meet those needs is the key to achieving success.
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How to Know What your Community Wants in Their Fitness Center?
The answer, in a sense, is simple. Just ask your residents. However, it goes beyond polling constituents (although that’s a good place to start). It’s important to start with market research. What are the demographics of your area? Is it mostly families, young professionals, or seniors? These groups all gravitate to a specific type of exercise whether it’s Silver Sneakers, Barre, or high impact interval training. Then, you must examine the presence of facilities that offer the specific programs, classes, or equipment, in your region. For example, indoor rock climbing is popular among individuals under 35. If research shows that there’s an interest in this activity but few facilities that offer it in the area (people are traveling out of the region to participate in it), then a gap in the market has been identified. That gap is an opportunity that can be filled with your new fitness center.
Planning for the Success of Your Fitness Center
Once you understand what activities and programs are needed in your community based on market research and community outreach, a program plan can be developed. The program plan will inform the design of the facility and the amenities and equipment that will be included. It is the key component of fitness center design. Acquiring new members is the primary revenue driver for fitness centers. That’s why it’s critical that they feature amenities that local consumers (people within a 15-minute drive) desire and ones that separate them from other facilities.
Other Design Considerations
Before diving into the amenities that draw people to your fitness center, let’s first look examine a couple of items that allow it to operate efficiently.
Storage: Since storage doesn’t generate revenue, it’s easy to overlook it. However, your facility’s program plan can guide decisions on the amount and type of storage that you need. While fitness centers do not have very much closet storage, certain programming will dictate your requirements. Spin and Pilates, for example, require more storage because they include separate equipment. Yoga requires less storage. Also, are you using certain rooms for multiple purposes, if your spin room is used for Zumba once a week, being able to store bikes is essential and must be considered in the design.
Flooring types: Group exercise rooms have historically used wood flooring as part of its aesthetic. However, wood flooring is expensive, thus cost-effective alternatives, including wood grain synthetic flooring have emerged. In terms of workout areas, rubber flooring is dominant choice. Options include rolled flooring products that include seams and poured rubber flooring. The latter is growing in popularity because it is odorless and doesn’t leak.
Building a Great Experience in Your Fitness Center
While each community is unique, there are certain design components and amenities that have been impactful in drawing in members and providing a superior experience. These include:
Sense of Arrival
There are two feelings that you want to produce within visitors to your fitness center. First, you want to give them that “wow” moment upon entering the facility. Second, you want to build a sense of comfort within your guests. At The Bridge, a multipurpose complex in Bridgeport, WV with a fitness center, guests encounter a large atrium upon entering the facility. From the atrium, guests have a clear line of site of the entire fitness center. The design gives guests a feel for the scale of the facility.
Additionally, fitness centers should be designed with communicating to new guests in mind. The most impactful facilities provide and easy and intuitive flow to the front desk so that members can receive the information they need to make the most of their trip.
Fitness Center Amenities That Your Community Wants
Community needs and market demand must be central to the selection of amenities in your facility. The two most popular amenities at The Bridge are the walking track and the basketball court. The popularity of both is driven by the average age of Bridgeport residents (45.4 per the most recent census) and the percentage of households with children under 18 (30.4 percent). According to The Bridge’s fitness director Ryan McCoy, the older population has frequented the walking track each day since its opening and open hours at the basketball court has been popular among middle and high schoolers.
Other popular amenities include:
Childcare areas: For parents with young children, it may be the deciding factor in selecting a fitness center. The critical consideration when adding this amenity is having separate areas for younger and older children and being out of the line of site of other parts of the facility.
COVID considerations: As expected, a greater focus must be placed on safety and cleanliness. This may also be a deciding factor for many potential members. Fitness centers must be built for optimal air circulation. Staff members must be able to disinfect all areas quickly and consistently. At The Bridge, foggers are used to rapidly disinfect areas. Also, many fitness centers have added more disinfectant wipe stations throughout their facilities.
Emerging technology: Fitness options are evolving at a rapid pace and facility design must keep pace to meet the desires of consumers. This includes procuring equipment that allow members to perform interactive workouts, like those done by Peloton users. More cardio machines are being equipped with 20–25-inch monitors, allowing fitness center members to follow along in group workouts with an instructor and others throughout the world.
Other exciting innovations include digitalized equipment that integrates with apps to record your workout. These machines can also send workouts sent to individuals allowing them to quantify their results.
To learn more about topics related to fitness center design or if you have a vision for a new fitness or recreation center, contact us today at 727-474-3845.