Itís Show Time
Mavericks Sports Club and Mavericks Cinema 3
By Al Valente
|PHOTOS COURTESY EPIC-ENTERPRISES|
|The lobby entrance of the Mavericks Sports Club and Cinema 3|
Imagine a place where patrons can both catch the latest Hollywood flick and then work off all that movie-theater popcorn.
Recreational managers and fitness center owners are continually challenged with keeping their constituents' interest by offering fresh, novel activities. The word "recreation" itself connotes movement, play and entertainment. So, it's not so far fetched that a leading California sports club chain—the avant-garde whose offerings include hot yoga, Neuromuscular Integrative Action and non-contact boxing—would now merge two seeming polar opposites on the exertion spectrum as fitness and movie-going into one facility. That all happened this summer at Mavericks Sports Club and Mavericks Cinema 3 in Moorpark, Calif.
Enter the busy lobby and you may see a strange blend of people in either workout clothes or dressed for the show. Turn left and enter a state-of-the-art health club, turn right and you have your choice of first-run movies in a modern theater complete with the latest stadium seating and Dolby sound system. But it wasn't always this busy.
In this quiet suburban community nestled among the hills and citrus farms about 40 miles northwest of downtown Los Angeles, there was once an eight-screen cinema that fell victim to overbuilding and was finally forced into lights-out bankruptcy. The building's fate seemed destined for some conversion other than its stately past—until a new idea emerged.
The plot thickened a year ago when Epic-Enterprises was on the search for promising real-estate prospects to add to its growing Mavericks Sports Clubs chain, specifically any projects that could marry the fitness and theater uses.
"I've been thinking about combining these businesses for quite some time," says Gene Campbell, Epic's President. "The optimization of space and economies for these two uses seemed to be a natural."
The company then got wind of the vacant cinema in Moorpark that had gone bankrupt like so many others due to past overbuilding.
|Sweatin' at the cinema: Mavericks is the place to workout or watch a movie—or both.|
The shakeout in the exhibition business has left scores of theaters, similar to Moorpark, to either close or find themselves severely struggling.
"A lot of the over-saturation has finally been weeded out during the theater bankruptcy stage," says Bill Herting, senior vice president of film for Signature Theatres in Oakland. "There are a few vacant buildings around from the bankruptcy stage; more are barely hanging on as theaters. The vacancies are now seeking better uses—some are being converted to art houses and some are being converted to other uses—the most promising is what Epic did in Moorpark."
The stage was set.
"The building was a closed eight-plex, a result of too many regional screens for this population of only 35,000, plus it hadn't been upgraded to current theater specs," Campbell says. "What attracted us to the property were its fitness conversion items: high ceilings, visibility and accessibility on busy West Los Angeles Avenue and an incredibly large parking lot. We ran the numbers through our analysis and were impressed with the pro formas, so we pursued it."
The Mavericks Sports Club chain currently consists of four clubs in California and Oregon. Prior to developing the Mavericks Sports Club brand, Campbell was the founder-owner of the Pinnacle Fitness and Gorilla Sports chains primarily in San Francisco, which he subsequently sold to Bally's in 1998. Those brands were so strong that Bally kept the original names in its family of clubs.
After Campbell's non-compete agreement expired, he immediately began building the Mavericks model, which are full-featured clubs with diverse cardio and strength-training areas featuring the latest equipment and programming.
|Owners are hoping the double feature of a cinema and health club will be a blockbuster.|
The Moorpark conversion has proven to be not only a solution for troubled theaters but offers opportunities for health clubs as well. Fitness centers have continually been adding to their repertoire for the last 20 years. They've gone from weight lifting to aerobics to Spinning to yoga and Pilates to entertainment systems on treadmills. Members continually ask for novelty. The additional cinema offering can now enhance the total club package.
Over the last 15 years in the fitness business, Epic devised a proprietary methodology that calculates the highest and best use of a commercial real-estate property depending upon a host of factors such as demographics, location, physical assets and competition. In the case of Moorpark, it ran the numbers through its system and found that although the surrounding market couldn't support the original eight screens, it definitely could support three. Further, the analysis validated its belief that the area could also support a full-featured health club like Mavericks.
"With the combination, you can now afford to go into smaller markets that are cost prohibitive to build just a theater or just a health club," Herting says. "From a real-estate viewpoint, the combination makes more economic sense. Today's opportunities for exhibition lie with new markets on the edge of major metropolitan areas. These are smaller markets that most [exhibitors] think too small to build a new theater in."
Now for climactic conversion.
"Of the 33,000 existing square feet, we kept 7,000 for the movie section and totally upgraded it with stadium seating and Dolby sound and launched it in December 2002 in time for the Christmas viewing season," Campbell says. "Then we did a total conversion of the remaining 27,000 square feet to a health club complete with strength and cardio machines, Spinning room, aerobics studios, yoga, Pilates, dance and a childcare area—truly top-of-the-line. And that opened on June 1, 2003."
Today, the end result is that there are two complimentary businesses under one roof.
"Ample parking is crucial to the success of both businesses," Campbell says. "Seasonally, movie attendance is slow in winter and busy in summer, the counter-opposite of health-club attendance. Furthermore, health clubs are busier earlier in the week and in the mornings, late afternoons and early evenings, while theaters are busier weekends and mostly in the evenings. The two businesses rarely compete for parking."
Epic has also implemented a means of cross-training health-club personnel to fill in at peak arrival times at the theaters. This offers both operational efficiency and job enrichment.
"In my 15 years in the fitness industry, I have never been as excited about a business model as I am with the marriage of these two uses," Campbell says.
And what's been the audience reaction to a workout and a movie?
"The jury is still out," Campbell says. "We actually didn't forecast that people would workout and then view a movie in the same visit. But we didn't totally rule out that scenarios could exist. The most probable would be working moms taking advantage of our childcare area during the afternoon to get a couple hour breather and perhaps see her favorite movie."
For more information
Mavericks Sports Clubs: www.maverickssports.com
A former general manager of a large multipurpose health club in Massachusetts, Al Valente is currently the president and publisher of FitCommerce.com, a portal and marketplace for the commercial fitness and wellness industry.