Feature Article - May 2017
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Fitness Forever

Fitness Facility Design to Meet Changing Demands

By Rick Dandes

Fitness With Flexibility

Trends in the fitness business don't come and go every few years; it's really more of a 10-year cycle, Fabiano said. Functional training has been on the horizon for five straight years. It's now a given that most large facilities have a specialized studio just for functional training.

"Are we accommodating for whatever may come along next in our designs?" Nagel asked. "Yes, we are. We are accommodating it by watching all the new, up-and-coming and veteran strength coaches and personnel trainers and physical therapists around the world. And what they are currently studying is movement-based activity. Everyone in the know understands that the newest gyms are going to be movement-based gyms, and we've accommodated that through our designs and our spacings."

Guajardo discussed retrofitting older facilities to meet new client demands. Back in the 1980s, he said, "… clubs had racquetball courts, and that was all the 'thing.' Now, we are taking those old racquet ball courts and converting them into functional training facilities, making them small group or bootcamp-esque types of facilities with appropriate equipment. We are doing that now at a YMCA—taking two racquetball courts and converting them into a spinning room, and a functional training room with pull-up bars, ropes and medicine balls."

Taking existing structures and transforming them into something totally new is an easy fix for facility designers because the rooms are already built and the walls are up.

In bigger, open fitness spaces, it's almost impossible to create areas that can serve as private spaces for yoga and other group fitness classes. "What the big boxes are doing," Fabiano said, "is to have that open space, but also to have a great studio that can accommodate Zumba or a yoga studio that feels soft. It's getting interesting, because now I have clients, larger clubs, saying to me, 'Hey, let's do this as a studio within our club.'"

If you have a large facility, he said, think of it as you might a department store that has a section of Ralph Lauren or Calvin Klein. "Larger clubs are becoming more flexible and able to accommodate change. They are becoming an assembly of boutiques," Fabiano said. "Client users can go to one of these larger clubs and get the kind of experiences they'd have to get by going to four different boutiques. Because the level of the product is just as high."

That's fueling growth for these larger facilities, Fabiano said, because they are elevating their product, and it is having a powerful economic impact on the industry. "So I think the pressure on the boutiques isn't going to go away. They will be strong, and people are going to like it, but I think the dominance of these 40,000-square-foot players will continue as they start coming into your town."

Fitness Must-Haves

The most important part of any facility is the floor, Guajardo said. "Make sure your flooring is correct," he added. "The majority of my day I spend doing diagrams, consulting with architects and customers on how we do the flooring correctly. Nowadays there are manufacturers that have gone from all black flooring with no color at all, no pop or sexiness, and we've moved to higher density colors. You can have black flooring, but you can also have higher density colored flooring, lighter colored flooring. Use it in different walkway patterns, use it in drop zones for Olympic lifting. Right now the must is to get the flooring correct."

Short of the lights, the flooring is the most used product in your facility. You are going to spend the most money on your flooring, Guajardo said. "If you don't, your gym is not going to be world-class. If you spend a reasonable amount of money on your flooring, the moment someone walks into your facility, they will want to sign up with you. They will want to be part of something that invested correctly. Remember, your athlete, your patient, everyone is standing on your floor, so make it good, make it motivating, make it bright, light, and the gym owner or municipality will see a greater return on use and greater return on their investment."

As for equipment, Nagel does not think anything is an absolute when opening a fitness center. "But you have to know your market," he cautioned. "You have to identify what your core group of income is going to be and what their needs are and provide for that. You need to cover your basic revenue stream. And then all the other things are add-on."