Leading the ‘PAC’ at Prairie Athletic Club
When Bruce Thompson opened Prairie Athletic Club in 1976, he only had one goal in mind: bringing the game of racquetball, a game he was very passionate about, to his hometown of Sun Prairie, Wisconsin. Little did he know his racquetball club and bar would turn into a mainstay of the community.
In 2008, Thompson’s daughter Jenny Simon took over the company. She’s followed in her father’s footsteps of re-investing in the facility and being hands-on for both members and employees. Simon’s brothers, Andy Thompson and Dan Thompson, also play a major role in managing the business, along with their spouses.
“We all go by the motto, ‘Let’s make today better than yesterday,’” said Simon. “We can’t do that without being involved with the members and employees.”
That involvement looks like a hands-on approach with day-to-day operations by the Thompson/Simon family, making it stand out from other clubs in the area. “We want to keep a small town feel where we know you by name and treat you like family,” said Simon. “Prairie Athletic Club has some of the lowest turnover rates of any club in the nation, and we attribute that success to the commitment we have to reinvesting in the facility, longevity of ownership and management, and our commitment to holding current members’ rates.”
Prairie Athletic Club also stands out in size alone. The 250,000-square-foot facility is equipped with a variety of indoor and outdoor amenities, such as six racquetball courts, six basketball courts, three indoor pools, five group exercise studios, a CrossFit box, an indoor soccer field, and a turf area with batting cages.
However, with great space comes great responsibility. “The biggest challenge for us is maintaining a 250,000-square-foot facility, hands down,” said Simon. “It’s a big job and is led by our facility manager, Don Punzel, who has been with the company for over 20 years. His knowledge of the building is invaluable, and he keeps us operational every day.”
Prairie Athletic Club also offers hundreds of classes and programs for its 17,000 members. Some of its most popular programs include summer camp, CrossFit classes for kids and adults, challenge pickleball, and movie nights on the jumbotron.
Simon said programs are sold on their website; they have invested a lot of capital into an easy, safe and secure registration process. “Prairie Athletic Club collects over $1.3 million annually in e-commerce alone,” she said. “A website with the capability to get members signed up for programs and fees collected easily is invaluable. A full-time marketing director to market all of these programs to members is also a must.”
Another must for Prairie Athletic Club is giving back to the community. They do so through donated facility time, scholarship memberships, volunteer staff time for local events and boards, onsite fundraisers, and more.
There’s no denying Prairie Athletic Club is a force. The size of the facility, the commitment to its members and the focus on making a difference in the community — there’s nothing small about this Wisconsin club.