If there is one thing the coronavirus pandemic has proven it’s that the fitness industry knows how to be flexible.
The staff at Forma Gym, with two locations in California, began talking about what they were seeing in other industries with the acceptance of outside activity, and started brainstorming how they could apply that to their gyms. They realized their parking lot was an unused asset, so they started asking “what if” and came up with the idea to set up an outdoor fitness tent.
“To validate the idea of the tent, we did a member survey and we saw more than 50% of the members who responded said they would feel more comfortable exercising outside even after the club reopened inside,” said Ralph Rajs, the COO of Forma Gym.
It took two weeks from the initial idea to get the tent up and operating.
Rajs said it took a few days to research and they only purchased materials with a short lead time and/or from local vendors. “We got a little lucky a tent that big was available for purchase and could get to us in a week,” he explained. “We had a lot of fun pulling together to get what we are calling the Group Fitness Pavilion up so quickly.”
The Group Fitness Pavilion is 3,500 square feet, with a 1,500-square-foot rectangle designated for group fitness, about 800 square feet for strength and about 500 square feet for cardio equipment. Rajs said they are continuing to be flexible with the space and have already tweaked the layout a few times based on member feedback to get the most usage out of the space possible.
“We are starting a series of Zumba Parties in the Pavilion, so that will be fun,” said Rajs. “Of course, it’s the new definition of a party, but we are generating excitement around the program. It’s our first attempt at decorating, but there are endless program and theme opportunities going forward, including the often-suggested wedding.”
Forma Gym plans to keep the pavilion active until the membership level gets back to where they were pre-pandemic and they will need to recapture parking spots. “Again, flexibility is key and the tent may be a better use for those parking spots than parking,” said Rajs. “That is an evaluation we will have to make.”
If your facility is debating setting up a temporary outdoor space, Rajs said it can be done for probably less than you think. Additionally, it can have a significant impact on bringing members back to your club and attract new members. “There are a variety of tents available at different costs that are very reasonable, as well as turf,” said Rajs. “My advice is to learn about the differences in type and quality for these two items and you can quickly calculate the ROI for any given set up.”