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Don't let the hospital image fool you. The Wellness Center at Meadowmont offers a relaxing and functional environment.

THE WELLNESS CENTER AT MEADOWMONT

UNC Health Care, Chapel Hill, N.C.; 919 966-5500; www.uncwellness.com

The Wellness Center at Meadowmont, Chapel Hill, N.C., is owned and operated by UNC Health Care, a state-operated, non-profit healthcare system. It is a department of the UNC Health Care System, but don't let the "hospital" image fool you. "People who see our facility for the first time are always drawn in by the facility's appearance. Members who exercise here are continually impressed with the ... open, relaxing and functional environment," says Chris Yankee, director of sales and marketing. "[The fitness center is] a clean, organized facility with high-quality equipment that is meticulously maintained, and a professional staff that provides excellent service to our members."

And these members include all types, such as older adults, athletes, children and those in cardiac rehab. "The diversity of membership makes our facility challenging, but rewarding, to manage. [It] demands that we provide a wide range of programs and resources, which results in a more comprehensive and compelling mix of programming for all of our members," says Yankee. "All of our members are better off because of the diversity of our membership."

In addition to traditional fitness center offerings and cardiac rehab, The Wellness Center at Meadowmont offers outdoor programs and classes, sports-specific training, aquatics programming and massage. Its two most profitable programs are personal training and massage therapy. Says Yankee, "Our personal training staff is widely respected in the area, which has resulted in heavy bookings of available training slots. We are always looking for ways to schedule more clients per trainer.... From a revenue standpoint, the personal training area leads all other non-dues revenue categories."

Because of its continued success in all areas, The Wellness Center needed to manage its member numbers. To do this, it created its Rolling Enrollment Program, which is, essentially, a waiting list. Yankee explains: "When we reached a usage level that seemed to be our maximum, we implemented a program to manage the number of members. Since our retention rate and positive word-of-mouth are so strong, we created this program to enroll members, but provide them with a start date that is weeks, or months, in the future, depending on in- and out-flows of members. We match this against the ideal number of members for the specific timeframe (higher in the summer, lower in January), and use this system to keep bringing in new members while keeping the facility from becoming overcrowded." So far, this program has been a big success. Prospective members still join, even with a wait as long as three months.

One way the center gains new members is through referrals from cardiac rehab and physical therapy. In fact, one of the facility's goals is to help inthe transition from "patient" to "member." Says Yankee, "We design our programs and policies to help members who are 'sick' in some way to improve and learn enough to experience the facility from a 'well person' point of view."

A secret to the wellness center's success is its member focus: "We are more focused on providing clinical benefits, high-quality programming and community goodwill than on maximizing revenues and increasing 'profits,'" says Yankee. "Our true focus [is] on treating our members fairly and providing the best service and programming possible at a fair price."

Facility Stats

* Date fitness facility opened: November 2002
* Fitness facility size: 52,000 square feet (includes Wellness Center, cardiac rehab and physical therapy spaces)
* Number of members: Approximately 4,450 members, plus student and monthly members, about 75 cardiac rehab and Bridge Program participants, and new and returning physical therapy patients
* Facility features: 25-yard heated indoor pool, warm water therapy pool, sauna and whirlpool; cushioned indoor track; primary fitness area and smaller clinical fitness area; two group exercise studios; half-court basketball court; smaller rooms and spaces, including alternative medicine studios (primarily used for massage therapy), a stress test room, health testing rooms, a resource library and administrative offices; a multi-purpose classroom including a teaching kitchen; dedicated physical therapy space; pro shop; café
* Strength equipment: Hammer Strength, Life Fitness, FreeMotion, Hoist, Iron Grip
* Cardio equipment: Life Fitness, NordicTrack, Precor, StairMaster, NuStep, SciFit, Concept2, Schwinn
* Specialized equipment: StretchMate; LeMond and Sapilo cycles for indoor cycling
* Management/fitness assessment software: Aphelion Fitness Manager, FitLinxx, MicroFit Health Wizard, Wellsource's Personal Wellness Profile
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