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Making Fitness a Family Affair

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Photo courtesy of Star Hill Family Athletic Club.

Pleasing everyone in the family can be a challenge. Mom enjoys cycling, but dad plays basketball. One child likes swimming, while the other prefers lacrosse. As a result, trying to please everyone can be impossible.

Imagine offering your members a place that caters to the entire family.

Star Hill Family Athletic Club in Tolland, Connecticut, is a one-stop shop for all athletic needs. The company fully embodies its motto “re-discover the power of play” by offering everything you could imagine in a health club — and even more.

“The concept behind the gym was to provide a spectrum of amenities that could work within the health and wellness industry, but at the same time make it a family-oriented facility,” said Mike Smida, the owner and general manager of Star Hill Family Athletic Club. “The goal was to provide a place for families to come and exercise together.”

The 143,000-square-foot facility boasts an indoor swimming pool, three turf fields, two full-sized hardwood courts, a batting cage, an indoor walking/jogging track and a fitness center featuring cardio equipment and free-weights. Members can also choose from a plethora of Group X classes, ranging from yoga and cycling to Country Western Dance and Pickleball.

When Smida opened the club in November 2009, he kept family in mind. “Star Hill is a dude ranch out in Cody, Wyoming, that my sister-in-law’s family owned,” said Smida. “We went out there many times when my kids were little, and for me that was always a great family memory, so I asked permission to carry the name over to this facility.” By offering a wide spectrum of amenities, Star Hill Family Athletic Club is a place where the whole family can find something they enjoy.

If members want to break away from their daily workout routine and try something new, they can give a sports clinic a try. Star Hill Family Athletic Club offers soccer, lacrosse, basketball and field hockey clinics, in addition to soccer, football, volleyball and field hockey leagues.

Patti Walker, the sales director at Star Hill Family Athletic Club, said one of the club’s unique programs is the Star Hill Swim team. “The team is like a starter program for kids that are interested in swimming, stroke development and competing, but maybe aren’t ready for an elite swim team,” said Patti. The team started two years ago with only 35 kids, but now has over 100 kids participating.

Creating value for members has contributed to Star Hill Family Athletic Club’s success. “We work very hard to demonstrate the value of our membership,” said Smida. “It’s not only a gym membership, it’s a place for a birthday party, a place for swim lessons or parents night out, which means mom and dad can have a date night once a month.”

Star Hill Family Athletic Club provides the community of Tolland with much more than exquisite fitness facilities. Smida strives to make the club feel like a real home. “A couple years back we had a huge snow storm and people lost power for a week,” said Walker. “With our generators we were able to stay open. We had people sleeping in the lobby, taking showers and charging their phones.”

Even though Star Hill Family Athletic Club features a plethora of family friendly fitness opportunities, Smida stresses the importance of having a key focus and vision. “Know the product and know the target audience,” said Smida. “We have had to discover that. We can’t be everything to everyone. It’s all about focus. Know what you’re trying to provide and then do a great job doing it.”


By Emily Harbourne

Rachel Zabonick-Chonko

Rachel Zabonick-Chonko is the editor-in-chief of Club Solutions Magazine. She can be reached at rachel@peakemedia.com.

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