Ask an Expert: Mark Fisher

Mark Fisher.

You have questions, we have answers. We took some time this month to speak with Mark Fisher, the CEO and president of Sport&Health, about how his clubs handled architecture and design concepts in recent growth, and how your clubs can learn from their experiences.

“How did you choose your architecture firm?”

MF: Our VP of construction and the senior management team interviewed firms with a proven performance in the hospitality and recreation industry. As a group, we had a very clear vision of what we wanted our brand to communicate, and we believe that our facilities are a conduit to communicate that brand. It was important that the firm we teamed with understood our vision, understood our members’ needs and had a firm grip of the detailed intricacies of what it takes to create a timeless, functioning health club.

“What are some new designs that you are implementing?”

MF: We are employing both dramatic sightlines for an impressive stunning appearance as you tour the club — as well as intimate spaces to allow the members to feel connected to the club, and not as if they are in some massive impersonal space. We are creating more dynamic and small-group training spaces, and we continue to place value on social spaces where members can connect with each other. The locker room continues to be an area where we are investing in a very nice, timeless finish.

Historically, locker rooms are some of the most expensive areas of the build, in that they are typically hard finishes and have to be water resistant.  Additionally, this is an area where a member’s eye is especially keen and sensitive to a dirty environment. Many clubs take the opportunity when they’re doing tile to use very bright colors that, tomorrow, could be yesterday’s turquoise. Instead, you could be using a clean brushed Italian marble, with a zero grout line, that still looks great 20 years from now, and always appears to be clean. You can add some accents with pops of color by using glass tile, or bright wall coverings that are easy to replace a year or two from now, when the trend is something new. Timeless materials and designs look as great 10 years from now as they do today, but it’s typically more expensive.

“What have you learned in this building process?”

MF: Understanding how our members are going to use our space and what is important to them is vital. Great design has to be functional from a maintenance perspective as well as from the users perspective.

“What was a major challenge you encountered, and how did you work through it?”

MF: Getting the construction teams, design teams and operations teams to communicate with each other regarding what is working and what is not working after delivery of a new club. We learn on each new build and are in a constant state of improving. Ensuring that all of the information is shared with each group helps us get better as a whole.

Top Four Architecture & Design Tips

1) Understand the end user: How will your members want to use the space.

2) Build something that you can maintain and that is timeless.

3) Invest in and incorporate technology where you can.

4) Understand that what you build communicates who you are — your brand identity — so be very thoughtful about that.

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