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Opening a New Club? Pay Attention to These Three Things


Web4You’ve been thinking about opening that new club for a while, and you’re just about ready to go for it. Whether it’s your first club, second or 20th, here are three things you should pay particular attention to:

Get A Good Deal 

Your real estate deal is probably one of the most important keys to success for a new club. Do the demographic research and how that relates to what you can charge and spend on rent. Too many times, club owners get caught in a bad deal that forces an immediate struggle to pay rent and make a profit. Once you know the demographics are strong, head into lease negotiations with these things in mind:

Start with trying to negotiate having the landlord pay for the mechanical system. This is typically a third of your build-out cost, and something you can’t take with you. Apply this rationale to other construction items such as elevators, exterior windows or anything that relates to making the space building code compliant.

Do a test fit to make sure you aren’t leasing too much space or too little. Square footage is dollars; you don’t want to take on too much.

It takes seven months on the aggressive side and 10 months on the conservative side to design and build a club. Attempt to negotiate deferring rent payments, at least until you occupy the space. And if you can get a couple free months of rent after you occupy, all the better.

Club Flow’s Importance

Once you have decided on a space, the club flow is extremely important. The flow should incorporate the following:

A reception area that is inviting and has a view of what you are offering programmatically.

A clear circulation pattern. Convoluted circulation is confusing for potential members. You want your sales staff to intuitively be able to walk potential members through your new club and be able to show them and tell them about everything you have to offer.

By nailing the club flow you will have a club that helps you sell memberships.

Focus Your Dollars 

Spend money on areas that members will appreciate. Challenge your design team to think about the following items:

Pick inexpensive materials for areas where you have a lot of square footage, but use more expensive materials in smaller, accented areas that members touch every day.

Create one focal element in your reception area that is something people remember.

Look for innovative design ideas that elevate the functional materials needed for performance into design elements, like wood floors in studios, and tile in showers. You have to spend money on these items, so get the most out of them.

Although there are a lot of other decisions you will make during this process, if you keep these three principles in mind, your money will go a lot further, your club will have eye-catching appeal and your capital expenditure should be smaller, thus allowing you to start turning a profit sooner.


Bryan Dunkelberger is a principal for S3 Design and has designed health clubs for over 15 years. His firm specializes in designing clubs that maximize the member’s experience.

Emily Harbourne

Emily Harbourne is the assistant editor of Club Solutions Magazine.

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