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30 Years and Counting

What's the secret to Almaden Valley Athletic Club's success? Keeping up with the times, excellent staff and customer service, and offering a little bit of something for everyone.

ALMADEN VALLEY ATHLETIC CLUB (AVAC)

San Jose, Calif., 408 267-3700, www.avac.us

Fitness centers come and go in this somewhat risky business, so the ones that make it must be doing something right. By the time Fitness Management first published in 1985, Almaden Valley Athletic Club (AVAC), San Jose, Calif., had already been around for almost 10 years. So what's the secret to its success? Keeping up with the times, excellent staff and customer service, and offering a little bit of something for everyone. Says Joe Shank, owner and CEO, "AVAC offers health, fitness and wellness programs for members [of] all ages. AVAC's resort-style facility features luxurious amenities, exceptional programs and a wide variety of services."

Shank started the facility with partner Jim Theiring. When Theiring bought a walnut grove in 1974, he called Shank to help him complete his dream of building a swim school. Their idea finally evolved to include many fitness activities, so that families could play together. Within 18 months, Shank raised $1.2 million, and pre-sold more than 500 memberships. When they broke ground, they had accumulated 35 limited partners and a loan of $550,000.

From day one, AVAC has had the most up-to-date facilities, equipment and staff, says Shank. In the 1980s, AVAC was tapped to hold the United States Tennis Association's (USTA) Girls 18-and-under National Tennis Championships -- a tradition that has continued every year since. Also, many of the world's future tennis champions have played here, including Pete Sampras, Lindsey Davenport, Jim Courier and Michael Chang.

Since its opening in 1976, the facility has gone through many renovations. When it first opened, a large part of its facility consisted of racquetball courts. In 1992, the racquetball courts were turned into a new workout room. What used to be a place for only 12 people could now accommodate more than 1,200 people at a time. Since then, the workout room was expanded into a 8,500-square-foot fitness center, offering the latest workout equipment with Cardio Theater, MicroFit assessment, a fully equipped Pilates studio, and a functional fitness and stretching area. And, while the 25-yard lap pool remains outside, an indoor teaching pool with a retractable roof was completed in 2000, allowing year-round swim instruction and training. Plus, the Tennis Complex now features 11 championship courts with propane heat lamps to keep guests warm during night league matches.

In addition to traditional fitness, AVAC has also partnered with Dr. Mark Eastland of MORE Chiropractic and Rehabilitation to offer members onsite sports injury evaluation, chiropractic rehabilitative care, injury prevention, athletic training and education services at AVAC's newly created Rehabilitation Center. It also offers Swedish, sports, pregnancy and deep tissue massage.

In addition, its Senior Wellness Program is the largest wellness program for older adults in the South Bay, with more than 600 members. It offers lectures, social events, European vacations and specialized workout classes.
Finally, with more than 3,000 swim school students per week (teaching 16,000 children to swim each year), AVAC is the largest swim school in the U.S., according to Shank.

AVAC is able to maintain, expand and improve all of its facilities and offerings due to its solid financial status. Its 2004 gross revenue for its swim school was $2.71 million, Stott Pilates education brought in $271,000, personal training and Pilates training grossed $340,000, tennis lessons brought in $232,000, massage $45,000 and childcare grossed $82,000. Says Shank, "AVAC has had continued success for many reasons. One of the highlights of its success is that it continues to reinvest profit back into the club."

Shanks explains that "equipment may change, fitness fads may come and go, but [the original] dream of a special place where families can experience the joy of health and fitness together, that dream remains as constant as ever."

Facility Stats

* Date fitness facility opened: June 1976
* Fitness facility size: 11,000 square feet
* Number of members: 3,600 memberships, which represents more than 6,500 people
* Strength equipment: FreeMotion, Technogym, Hammer Strength, Keiser and Ivanko free weights
* Cardio equipment: Star Trac, Life Fitness, Precor
* Group exercise classes: 75 classes per week: Spinning, Power Sculpt, Water Workout, Step & Sculpt, Combo Mix, Step Challenge, Multi-Step, Cardio Sculpt, Dance, Cardio Kick & Box, Lower Body Blast, Pregnancy Fitness, Yoga, Intro to Step, Tai Chi, Fit Kids, Power Play, Aerobics & Abs; 32 Stott Pilates classes weekly (group, private, and semi-private sessions); classes are for all age groups, from children to older adults
* Management/fitness assessment software: MicroFit (AVAC was one of the first fitness facilities to buy the software when it first came out.)
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