Former Tennis Club Reinvents Itself

Eastlake Athletic Club, once a tennis club with few members, was transformed into a thriving fitness center, without forgetting its roots.

Eastlake Athletic Club, now a successful fitness facility in Elkhart, Ind., was once a tennis club that had outlived its usefulness. "We started Eastlake as a tennis facility with only 250 members," says Justin Evers, who co-owns the facility with his identical twin brother, Jason. "Within three years, our membership grew to 1,000."

The Evers brothers kept some of the indoor tennis courts, and converted 20,000 square feet of the facility into a 12,000-square-foot fitness center, a 7,000-square-foot basketball court and running track, and a group fitness studio. (The entire facility has a 30-foot pitch ceiling, which makes the facility open and spacious.) "We worked long hours with little pay to build the tennis program to the point where we could invest in fitness equipment. Once we established the fitness center, it complemented the tennis club," Justin says. As a result of the combined facility, many tennis members converted to fitness members, and many new fitness members started participating in tennis. Says Justin, "It turned into a win/win situation."

The conversion to fitness wasn't easy, especially since Justin and Jason are tennis pros with no background in fitness management. "We hired a fitness consultant to assist us on what equipment to purchase, and the layout of the equipment," Justin says. But, despite their inexperience, the brothers soon found that their style of management was working. "We are on site every day, and truly interact with staff and members. This allows us to take care of any problems or unexpected situations that may come up," says Justin. "Our chemistry is great, with Jason overseeing the tennis department, and my managing the fitness side," he says. In addition, since Jason and Justin both also give tennis lessons, this "gives us the opportunity to build member relations on the tennis court, as well as on the fitness floor," Justin says.

Eastlake Athletic Club Elkhart, Ind.

Date fitness facility opened: 2000

Facility size: 52,000 square feet

Group exercise: Kickboxing, BodyPump and RPM (Les Mills), Silver Sneakers, yoga, Pilates and Abs

Extras/Amenities: Tennis, basketball, MADD sports training (personal training), childcare, massage

To have your fitness center featured, send an email describing your facility to [email protected].
The brothers aren't afraid to get outside help when they need it. In addition to the consultant they hired in the beginning, they also now use an outside company for Eastlake's personal training program. "For a few years, I personally managed all departments of the fitness club; but, recently, we partnered with MADD sports training out of Nashville, Tenn., to take over the personal training services," Justin explains.

But not all partnerships have gone so well. Eastlake used to lease space to a local café that sold smoothies and snacks to members. However, after a few months, the company was not able to operate both of its cafés, and it dropped the one in Eastlake. The café sold a large amount of smoothies, and Justin and Jason were worried that members would miss them. So, they leased a smoothie machine from a local vending company. The front desk staff runs the machine, and the facility makes around $500 per month from it. The smoothie machine has become an unexpected profit center for the facility.

Justin and Jason feel that it is important to give back to the community that has helped make Eastlake Athletic Club a success. Every year, they hold a fundraiser for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation International (JDRF). During the fundraiser, the facility holds men's and woman's tennis tournaments, a kids carnival, an adult "mixer" and a live auction at a local country club. Says Justin, "Since we don't advertise a lot, this is an excellent way to promote the facility, and raise money for a good cause. Last year we raised $70,000 for the foundation!"

From its beginnings as a tennis-only facility, Eastlake Athletic Club continues to attract new members by offering programs and facilities that its community wants. Recently, it added the Silver Sneakers group exercise program, and "we have 300 new members and counting," says Justin. With a hands-on management approach, and a finger on the pulse of what their members want, Justin and Jason turned an outdated tennis club into a thriving fitness center.
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