Dramatic Gym Transformations: Merritt Clubs

Every so often, it’s necessary for club operators to renovate certain areas of their facilities to remain up-to-date and ensure a premium member experience. In this article series, we highlight a number of dramatic gym transformations, including why updates were needed, learning lessons and advice for club operators pursuing similar projects.

Here, Andrew Barranco, the regional operations manager for Merritt Clubs, shares insights into a number of renovation projects the club has taken on over the years.


Location: Merritt Clubs Towson

Before renovation:

CS: Why was the renovation needed — what were the goals? 

AB: We had several goals of this renovation. It is a 42-year-old club that has already had many renovations over the years. This time, we wanted to make improvements to our cycle studio and mind-body studio, as well as create an open functional fitness space for members. 

We switched the locations of our current mind-body studio and cycle studio. This provided a better fit for members. The move placed the new mind-body studio in a quieter part of the club and allowed us to add hot yoga, giving our members an additional free offering. The studio enhancements included rebranding of the group fitness signage, studio names and logos, as well as colored LED lighting additions and sound upgrades.

We also took out two racquetball courts and created a fun turf/functional training area; as well as opened our cardio floor for better functionality. The added fitness space also allowed for rearranging a line of equipment, creating a new stretching area and smaller free weight zone on the first floor to complement the second floor offerings.

Lastly, we refreshed the remaining racquetball courts, creating a lounge area, adding a water fountain, improving air flow and HVAC, as well as refinishing floors and walls. We also did upgrade locker room partitions, counter tops and mirrors to give our space a fresh, more modern design, look and feel.

CS: What were the biggest challenges with the project, and how were those challenges overcome? 

AB: The project went smoothly. Our Merritt Construction Team staged the project to have minimal amount of areas closed off at a time. The redirection of members not able to use the main stairwell for a period was the biggest challenge or inconvenience to members. 

CS: What were the biggest learning lessons from this project?

AB: Our biggest lesson was having better communication with the racquetball members, explaining why we were eliminating two courts and how we were upgrading and refreshing their other courts. As anyone can imagine, long-time members were upset by the loss of courts. Communicating the positives that the renovation provided to most members was key.

CS: Is there any advice you can share with other operators pursuing a similar project? 

AB: Be clear on your objectives before you get started. Understanding the outcome and communicating to the members throughout the process is important. Start the communications well in advance of actual starting your project, and ensure all team members are saying the same things and the message is consistent as to why you are doing the project.

After renovation:


Location: Merritt Clubs Fort Ave

Before renovation:

CS: Why was the renovation needed — what were the goals? 

AB: We needed to expand our cycle studio due to space restrictions. In the process of renovation, we reworked our lobby and offices to allow for a new, larger cycle studio. We completely rebuilt our welcome desk, café counter, coffee station and lobby flooring to open the space and create a better first impression. The offices were moved to open up floorspace for the relocated studio. The studio upgrades included sound proofing the room, new HVAC units, new sound systems and colored, programmable LED lighting upgrades.

CS: What were the biggest challenges with the project, and how were those challenges overcome? 

AB: The staging of our welcome desk was the largest challenge. For a few months, we suspended smoothie and other pro shop sales while our entrance was relocated to the side of the club. 

CS: What were the biggest learning lessons from this project? 

AB: Keeping to our budget. We added high-end finishes to our lobby and lighting that really created a great finished product. 

CS: Is there any advice you can share with other operators pursuing a similar project? 

AB: We did our project in the beginning of the year at peak time because we wanted to get it completed prior to our summer pool season. The lobby flows to the outdoor pool, so finishing prior to spring was important. Ideally, this would have been a fall project.

After renovation:

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