Feature Article - October 2004
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These days, people want more and more from their rec centers and sports clubs. But how do multipurpose facilities expand without spreading themselves too thin?

By Kyle Ryan

 Bellevue, Wash.

Originally called the SuperSonics Racquet Club when it opened in 1973, what later became the PRO Sports Club continually expanded over the years.

Started with a couple of tennis courts, the club eventually grew to have five pools, four basketball courts, seven group-fitness studios, nine squash courts, seven racquetball courts, six tennis courts, a giant free-weight center, women's gym, cardio theatre, 10,000-square-foot child-care facility, a 26-room spa, full-service hair salon, dry-cleaning service, restaurant, café, auto salon, golf-analysis center and medical center.


"Everything that you do here, you're going to walk away with a 'wow,'" Rackner says. "Every single inch of this club has been designed with a wow factor."

The PRO Sports Club isn't just designed to impress. The club is dedicated to total body health: Stress affects health, so reducing it helps foster health. Members won't stress about getting their oil changed and fitting in a workout when they can do both at the same time.

"A lot of members will suggest things they want," Rackner says. "The other thing is we just keeping thinking about what would make members' lives easier and adding those convenience factors."

To get ideas from members, the club surveys a percentage of them every quarter with mail-in surveys. The same percentage of members are surveyed every month, but not the same members. There are also 15 comment boxes located around the club.

"Keeping in touch with members' interests helps drive our programs and amenities, definitely," Rackner says. "But just because one member suggests something, we're not going to be quick to [say], 'Oh, we have to do this!'"

To avoid fads, PRO Sports Club's managers research everything before incorporating it at the club. They also ensure facilities and equipment are cross-functional so that one room isn't dedicated to only one thing.

"I don't think that we are responsible to fads," Rackner says. "I think we develop our own trends."

The club's most popular programs tend to follow popular fitness trends but add a twist. PRO Sports Club Owner Dr. Mark Dedomenico is a doctor who helped develop the coronary-bypass operation, and Rackner says he incorporated his medical background into all aspects of the facility.

His work with people suffering from weight problems and other disorders catalyzed the creation of the 20/20 Lifestyles program. Participants meet with a registered dietitian, work out with a personal trainer three times a week, attend a support group and get a weekly review of their progress. They can also buy specially prepared meals at the club's restaurant as part of the new Grab & Go food program.

With 450 people enrolled, the 20/20 Lifestyles program has been very successful. So has the Extreme Body Makeover class, which is essentially a 15-person group personal-training class with body-composition analysis and dietitian consultation. (It has a waiting list.) Other popular programs include Cardio Explosion (a high-intensity cardio workout), circuit training and sports-conditioning classes. Sports leagues for basketball and squash are also well attended, and kids' summer camps, which cover various sports and even cooking, have also filled quickly.

With such a large membership base, the club has to go above and beyond to make each individual feel important. Taking its cues from Disney, PRO Sports Club refers to its staff as "cast," the club is the "stage," and business hours are the "show." The club's motto is "exceptional people creating exceptional experiences" and includes a seven-point customer-service model called PRO BEST:

P:Politely greet with a smile
R: Recover from mistakes quickly
O: Own the question so it never goes unanswered
B: Backstage remains backstage—no boxes lying around or staff members chatting in member areas (the club has special locker rooms and lounges for the staff)
E: Entertain and create moments of magic
S: Show readiness at all times (managers walk the club before opening to make sure it's clean and ready to go)
T: Thank and say good-bye

There are other guidelines as well. Cast never just point when a member has a question; they escort members to places. Every cast member is trained to be able to answer questions fully, and everyone wears the same uniform with the same name tag (no titles), so anyone can be a manager when needed. Like Disneyland employees, there are personal-appearance rules, such as no facial jewelry or visible tattoos, even going as far as nail-polish specifications. New hires spend two days in training before starting work on the club's floor, including one day with PRO Sports Club's president.

Not surprisingly, Rackner recommends other facilities devote a similar amount of energy to staff preparation and customer service.

"I think offering the best of the best with exceptional customer service keeps us competitive," she says.