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ATC Fitness on the Importance of Giving Back

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September 2021 Club of the Month, presented by ABC Fitness Solutions:

ATC Fitness, est. 1992

For ATC Fitness, giving back and supporting the community is a core aspect of the business. Whether it’s supporting St. Jude or donating equipment to a local hospital, the brand takes pride in rallying members together around a common cause. 

Here, Spencer McDaniel, the owner of ATC Fitness, shares why giving back is so important to the brand, keys to success, and leadership advice for other operators.



Tell me a bit about ATC Fitness and what makes it stand out from others. 

ATC is a low-priced model with very high value. At ATC, we have taken the “meat and potatoes” out of a big-box model and packaged it in a low-priced model. In all our locations, you will find plenty of circuit equipment, Life Fitness Hammer strength, cardio and a large free-weight section. I believe what sets us apart from other facilities is our team. We are constantly on the floor engaging with members, cleaning and picking up. All the team is completely engaged with ATC during the times they are there. 

We also like to keep things simple for our members, from the sign-up process and billing to everything in between. Stepping into an ATC doesn’t need to be intimidating. We stress to our members that ultimately, we are all here doing the same thing, which is trying to become a better, healthier version of ourselves.

ATC Fitness are huge supporters of St. Jude. Why is this organization so important to your gym?

Many years ago, we were touched by St. Jude when one of our own family members was a patient there. Being there and experiencing for ourselves exactly what families with children go through, as well as their incredible team, makes it one of the most special places on earth. Ever since that time, we have vowed as a business and a family to do all that we can to help bring a stop to childhood cancer.



How do you raise money for St. Jude? In particular, what can you tell me about the Long Drive Golf tournament and its success? 

We raise money for St. Jude a couple of ways. We raise money throughout the year by offering the community a week pass to all our facilities. One hundred percent of the dues from that week goes to St. Jude. 

We also have chosen another great event to attach most of our participation to. We make a big push the second half of the year to collect donations that go toward our team that participates in the St. Jude Memphis Marathon weekend. Everyone at ATC — team members and fitness members — participate in raising money and participating in either the full, half marathons or the 5K. It is a great way to engage with our members as well as raise money for a great cause.  

Since 2015, we have also helped put on a Long Drive (golf) event in Memphis that helps raise money for the hospital. COVID has taken the event off the rails at this time, but we hope to bring it back in the future. The event has been host to all of the longest hitters on the planet in the long drive world — many of whom have been featured on the Golf Channel as well as in many of the popular golf magazines. 

You also donate equipment to St. Jude. How important is giving back to your staff culture and member culture? 

Back in 2012 we were approached by St. Jude to help with adding a fitness center on the hospital’s campus for their nurses and doctors. Getting to help them was very flattering, but we wanted to do more. So, we came up with a way where we could donate all of the equipment that would make up their new facility. They approached us again in 2016 about a new project that would allow families to stay at the hospital overnight with their child. This was something totally new. No parent had ever been able to stay with their child overnight at the hospital. Part of their vision was a small room, in that special section of the hospital, where parents could go and catch a workout. We jumped at the opportunity to help the organization that we love once again. Both gyms that are on the property are doing great and we look forward to more opportunities like that. We feel our staff and members are also very proud to be part of an organization that can do things like that in the community. It is because of the staff and members we can do things like this. 



How does giving back engage your members, and what does your support mean to the community? 

St. Jude is just one of the many organizations we help around the community. Engaging our members best presents itself when it comes to the St. Jude Memphis Marathon weekend. We are blown away every year with the number of members we add to our fundraising and running teams for the weekend. We all pitch in to raise money, hold training runs and support each other. On the day of the race, we have a central meeting spot where we all meet for a group photo. Some years you can barely tell who is in the photo because the cameraman has to stand so far back just to get everyone in the photo. After the race, we rent a large banquet room and have food and fun for everyone on the team. It really is a great time.

Beyond this, what else is key to success at ATC Fitness? 

Another key to our success is just keeping it simple. We try to be more than just a “low cost, high value” gym. We are low cost, that is obvious, but we aren’t just trying to give the member value to just cover the cost. We want to give more value than anyone in our market, and then some. We strive to give a good, consistent experience to our members every day.

What’s the best piece of leadership advice you could give to other operators? 

I see many gym owners and operators across the country struggle with new competition coming into the market and adapting to industry changes. My advice is to find what you are good at, and be that. Find out what makes you unique and great, at the core, and be that. Sure, there will be a new piece of equipment or something new you want to add, just don’t change what you feel makes you great at the core of your model of fitness.


Created in partnership with ABC Fitness Solutions. Visit abcfitness.com for more information on how they can help your fitness business.

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Rachel Zabonick-Chonko

Rachel Zabonick-Chonko is the editor-in-chief of Club Solutions Magazine. She can be reached at rachel@peakemedia.com.

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