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In Print

The Dos and Don’ts of Renovating


Adaptation is necessary in the fitness industry. The most successful clubs are embracing change and regularly rolling out new improvements.

Renovations in particular are a great way to generate interest while preventing your gym’s atmosphere from growing stagnant. Change, when framed correctly, can spell success.

“I believe clubs should be doing something every year, from a capital perspective,” said Mark Miller, the chief operating officer of Merritt Clubs. “The world is changing and if clubs want to stay relevant, they must adapt and improve.”

In order to revitalize its brand, Merritt Clubs recently underwent capital improvements at multiple locations with great success. Along the way, Miller learned a few things about making a renovation go smoothly.

In his own words, here are five basic rules every club should follow when planning and executing a renovation:

  • Think it over thoroughly. You need to make sure you invite the right people to the table. Sometimes clubs want to renovate but never include the front-line teams who operate them and know how they work around it. Everyone’s voice must be heard.
  • Communicate. This is critical. Everyone must know the message and timelines. It’s imperative every employee is in the know.
  • Always plan for more. Assume it will take longer than they say and cost more than planned — you must remain agile and adaptive.
  • Start from the end results and work backward. Make sure the member journey is top of mind.
  • Have a weekly meeting on site. It is always better to see the project in person versus on paper.

The end result of Merritt Clubs’ recent renovations has been overwhelmingly positive, but along the way, there were growing pains, especially in re-designing an old building.

“Being in business for over 40 years has proved to be challenging,” said Miller. “Our older clubs were racquetball centers, and over the years we have updated and progressed them. The challenge, however, is in the design — most courts have load-bearing walls and this creates limitations.”

Design decisions should also coincide with the identity you want to take on. According to Miller, it’s common for clubs to turn their spaces into all-encompassing workout experiences. “Clubs are upgrading the studio experience to compete with the stand-alone studios and create a more entertainment-style venue,” he said.

Many clubs have areas usable only for specific exercises, and these spaces sit dormant when their respective activities become less popular.

As a result, functional and flexible spaces are more popular. “Also, there’s the move to open fitness floors, and adding turf and opening play areas for functional training,” said Miller.

Renovations can also include more than just bricks and mortar, and extend to new digital amenities, from better internet connectivity to enhanced virtual fitness.

“Another major area of upgrades has been in the digital arena,” said Miller. “Years ago, it was nice to have WiFi and computer linkages — now, it’s a must. This will only continue to grow.”

Whether you need a more updated look, an under-used space re-purposed, or your digital offerings enhanced, it’s important to keep your gym relevant.

“Depending on the age of clubs, surrounding markets and gym performance, all factors should be considered,” said Miller. “The world is changing, as is the way we operate.”

Bobby Dyer

Bobby is the former assistant editor of Club Solutions Magazine.

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