Feature Article - September 2008
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A Corporate Affair

Making a Fit Business

By Jessica Royer Ocken

Partnerships With Offsite Centers

For smaller companies and others without the space or finances to create an onsite fitness center, partnering with a park district or private health club may be the answer. "Research shows that companies that enroll their employees in a pre-paid pass plan at a fitness center experience lower illness-related absences, more productive and less stressed employees, lower health care costs and reduced turnover rates," according to the Prince William County Park Authority in Virginia.

This Park Authority has partnered with both the local government and local school district via just such a corporate pass program, so employees of these entities—and their families (no security issues here)—can purchase a pass to one of the Park Authority's two fitness centers at a 20-percent discount. They're then eligible to participate in all the Park Authority's program offerings—from sports teams to day camps—at the member rate, plus use the full range of health and wellness amenities.

At the Chinn Aquatics and Fitness Center in Woodbridge, Va., a 60,000-square-foot, two-level facility, these amenities include weight rooms, a cardio area, racquetball courts, a gymnasium and a big dance studio for all types of aerobics, Pilates, yoga and other classes, explained Dianne Cabot, public relations manager. The Chinn Center also offers a pool, sauna and whirlpool, as well as personal trainers, a masseuse, a nursery and an assortment of camp programs. And, the Chinn Center happens to be directly across the street from the big county government building, making it practically onsite for these employees.

The other option is the Sharron Baucom - Dale City Recreation Center in Dale City, Va., which is located closer to where many of these partner companies' employees live. Slightly smaller at 41,000 square feet, it still includes weight rooms, circuit training, cardio workout machines, a basketball gym, racquetball courts and a pool. "We also have countless fitness trails to run and bike through and a huge sports league group," Cabot said. There's been increased local interest in playing cricket, so the Park Authority is even considering putting in a cricket field. Both centers are open seven days a week and have early-morning and late-night hours of operation.

"It's a big investment in equipment and training and certifications [to have an onsite facility]," Cabot said. So for many corporations, a partnership may be the better fitness option. "All of our fitness staff are highly trained and experienced…[so] you know when you come here the staff and equipment will be top-notch," Cabot added. "Even if you've been sitting on couch for 40 years and are not so top-notch, they'll help you."