The Hart Center, Fairfield Bay, Ark., exceeded its first-year membership goals by focusing on its equipment, classes and events.
The Hart Center is known in its small community in Fairfield Bay, Ark., as "the Miracle on the Bay." The "miracle" is that the $2 million, 23,000-square-foot fitness center is located in a resort/retirement community of only 2,500 people. The facility took five years to plan and build, but all the planning and cost paid off. During the first quarter of operation in 2002, the fitness center exceeded its first-year membership goals, and participation at the facility has been consistent ever since. Fairfield Bay is approximately 80 miles north of Little Rock, Ark., and is located on Greers Ferry Lake. The area gets more than 40,000 timeshare visitors and other vacationers annually. These visitors make up a significant portion of The Hart Center's membership. The rest of the members are mostly retired, according to Fitness Coordinator and Personal Trainer Misty Wilkins. Because of that, both the men's and women's locker rooms are accessible for people with disabilities, and provide ample space for members to move around. In addition, The Hart Center hosts an annual Health Fair, and brings health-related vendors from all over the local area. Last year, approximately 500 visitors attended the fair, according to Wilkins, which is great publicity, and also appeals to the facility's member base. Most recently, The Hart Center increased it membership numbers by fulfilling corporate contracts with local businesses and the City of Fairfield Bay. To keep its regular members motivated, the fitness center began a new program last year called Member of the Month. For the program, staff members choose one member each month who has made health improvements. They put this member's "before" and "after" pictures, along with their testimony, on a bulletin board. "This has helped to inspire current, as well as future, members," says Wilkins. Another fun program is The Hart Center's annual Fun Olympics, held each Fourth of July weekend. Members and guests of all ages form teams to compete in four events. Winners get to take home a trophy. After the games, there is a barbeque. Says Wilkins, "This event allows us to connect with our members on a more personal basis, as well as give our members the opportunity to interact." The Hart Center also sponsors an annual 5K Run/Walk in conjunction with the city's Oktoberfest celebrations. While memberships and events keep profits up, The Hart Center also sells swimming accessories, and Hart Center clothes and hats, plus it has a snack bar. The Hart Center is owned by stockholders and managed by a board of directors and a general manager. Each employee is CPR-certified through the American Red Cross, and fitness staff members have certifications with ACE, the American Red Cross, American Exercise Association and the Arthritis Foundation. Wilkins says that the goal of The Hart Center is to accommodate each member by offering a variety of fitness equipment, classes and events. "We want to stay on top of the latest fitness advancements by adding and upgrading equipment [and programs] to meet the needs of our members," she says.