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Standing Room Only

A newly released report shows that programming is a top issue of concern among fitness center operators.

As the saying goes, "You can't please everyone!" Or, can you? When I'm at my fitness center, I like to notice what types of people are working out that day. Are they young, old, ultra-fit, out of shape? What always surprises me is that, no matter the time of day, the mix of clientele is broad, ranging from teenagers to adults 70-plus. But I also notice that the facility traffic is always light. My fitness center offers something for everyone - aquatics, basketball, racquetball, group exercise, cardio and strength training - but I have to wonder if the staff is not missing out on something by honing in on specific populations to offer specialty programs and services?

The membership picture has been less than stellar these past few years, yet it appears that things are looking up for the industry. State of the Industry, a 2007 report on the state of the managed recreation industry released in June 2007 by Recreation Management magazine, was compiled from nearly 2,000 responses from professionals in all types of recreation settings, including parks and recreation facilities, college campuses, school districts, YMCAs and fitness centers, and it revealed some positive outlooks for all. Because of the broad range of facilities, it is difficult to generalize from the results the overall picture for private for- and non-profit fitness facilities (they represented only 8.8 percent of the respondents), but I think we can say that what those respondents had to say about programming is in line with what facility operators have been saying to us as well.

The report states that facility usage is up, and most are anticipating increases from 2007 to 2008. Also, revenues have been and are projected to be higher, yet rates of increase in operating expenditures between fiscal 2006 and fiscal 2008 are expected to be slower. As such, fewer than 50 percent of health club respondents reported budgets as their primary concern right now.

What is the top issue of concern among fitness centers is programming. "In the next three years, [YMCAs and fitness centers] said their top issues would be creating new and innovative programming, followed by marketing and increasing participation," says the report. "Among health clubs, the top current programs include fitness programs, personal training, mind/body balance programs, active older adult programs, and nutrition and diet counseling." And, the most common programs that facilities are planning to add over the next several years include nutrition and diet counseling, teen programs, educational programs, adult sports teams, individual sport activities such as running clubs or swimming clubs, and programming for active older adults.

Coincidentally, when the staff at FM received this State of the Industry report, we had already planned the editorial content for this month's special report, which is profit centers. And, it appears that the areas on which we decided to focus are right on target with the results of this survey.

Personal training, nutrition and Pilates (mind/body) programming are key areas on which your facility can devise creative ideas to blend with the special needs of your members. And, they make perfect profit centers - programs for which you can charge your members extra. But these topics that we are covering this month are just a few of the limitless options for creating profit centers to grow ancillary revenue. The key is to identify a variety of programming options that appeal to all of the populations you serve. Then, outline the costs of providing such programs, and charge a reasonable fee to get as many people involved as possible.

The more profit centers your facility can identify, within reason, the more you can hope to provide not just the amenities that appeal to your members, but also exciting programs that can generate revenue. Then, you can go from a facility light on traffic to standing room only!

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