19 Sep 2018 World leisure: news, training & property
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Health Club Management
2014 issue 3

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Leisure Management - Maximising return

Club refurbishment

Maximising return

Refurbishments require a huge amount of capital investment, so what needs to be put in place to make the most of the opportunity they present? Kath Hudson reports

Kath Hudson
Members may need a fresh induction after new facilities are introduced
At Stratton St Margaret’s LC, a 40-station gym replaced two unpopular squash courts
Staff at One Leisure St Ives were trained to deliver functional training in the new area

There’s little point in creating a wonderful, shiny new facility if nobody knows about it, if the programmes are wrong, or if the staff don’t know how the new offering works. So at the same time as project managing the building work and keeping the centre running while the builders are in, operators need to work out how they’re going to maximise the opportunity the refurbishment will offer once work has been completed.

We speak to some operators about their approach after a refurbishment.

A joint effort between Alliance Leisure and Denbighshire County Council, Ruthin Leisure Centre’s refit was completed at the end of September 2013.

The refurbishment is the last piece of the puzzle to be put into place, as the council has already worked hard over the last four years to change the culture, ensuring staff, programmes and services were performing well. Now the facility has been brought up to scratch too.

The redevelopment, completed by Alliance Leisure, includes an extension with a brand new fitness suite, new changing rooms, a new entrance and open reception. Now phase two will start: refurbishing the corridors and adding a new studio.

Alliance Leisure provided a team of impact sales staff to drive membership sales, with staff also seconded from the other council facilities to support the launch and sales process. Marketing collateral, e-marketing and sales training were also made available.

The council also improved retention by closely monitoring its members. “We don’t accept sleepers. If someone hasn’t visited for a while, we follow them up. If they’re not coming, we re-tailor packages to suit them,” says Jamie Groves, head of communications, marketing and leisure at Denbighshire County Council. “We give them a proper induction and a warm welcome on every visit. Statistics are monitored on an hourly basis and changed if not working. We track all our classes, so we know if any are not performing.”

Again, this initiative was put into place before the refurbishment, putting strong operational standards in place to help maximise the impact of the new facilities.

The class programme is changed every three months, but since the refurbishment there has been an instructor on the gym floor at all times to invite people to try out new workouts: those whose membership doesn’t include classes are offered a free guest pass, which is then tracked with a view to selling them up. Express Workouts also take place at peak hours in the gym – ViPR, kettlebells and so on – to drive engagement.

The business plan targeted 400–475 members, but the club had reached 580 within five months and was still growing. “We structured packages to be competitive,” says Groves. “For a membership fee of just under £1 a day, people are able to use all seven facilities across Denbighshire.”

He adds: “Building a centre only works if you have the right approach, commercial mentality and right cultures within the service. We’re now a very lean and commercially driven provision.”

One Leisure St Ives, run by Huntingdonshire District Council, relaunched its gym in May 2013 as part of a phased £4.3m redevelopment, doubling the size of the fitness suite and adding a brand new Escape Fitness functional training area. New reception and changing areas were also added, while the aerobics studio, café and crèche were improved and relocated.

After public consultation showed there was local demand, two new facilities were also added: a five-lane tenpin bowling area and a Pure Day Spa with heat experience and treatment rooms – and indeed footfall has increased as a result.

To cope with the increased capacity, a number of new staff were taken on: one full-time and six part-time gym instructors, plus four full-time spa therapists. New staff have been tasked with inducting members and providing a more personal service.

To maximise the impact of the new spa, free trials and introductory offers were launched for current members and membership packages were created that included access to the spa.

Meanwhile, in the gym, all staff undertook Ushomi training to be able to deliver functional training classes and personal training on the functional equipment, as well as Technogym training for the fitness equipment. Functional training is now included in all inductions and programme reviews, and functional training classes have been introduced to teach users how to make the most of the equipment.

Since the functional training area was installed, there has been a 65 per cent increase in the uptake up of personal training, providing a valuable new revenue stream.

With enhanced studio facilities available following the refurb, the class programme was also improved with the addition of 30 more classes, including twice as many of the popular group cycling classes.

Prior to the relaunch, staff at the centre worked hard to promote the club and the refurbishment. Due to a number of new housing developments locally, the club knew there was untapped market potential. “We held open weekends, and had pre-opening sales offers, plus the first 100 members to sign up received additional benefits,” says Hudson. “We also did PR to gain coverage in the local press, placed adverts and used Facebook targeted campaigns.”

From the last quarter of 2012, to the last quarter of 2013, there has been a 74.5 per cent increase in gym usage and membership income has increased by 37.5 per cent.

Createability’s recent refurbishment of the parish council-run club Stratton St Margaret’s Leisure Centre in Swindon saw the conversion of two unpopular squash courts into a 40-station gym, while the reception area and old gym were made into a new reception, coffee bar and a new parish council office. Further to this, the sports hall floor was refurbished, a new semi-sprung floor was laid and a 3G floodlit outdoor artificial grass pitch (AGP) was created.

The centre has been rebranded Grange Leisure and continues to be marketed strongly as a community centre. Since the refurbishment, with the centre able to offer greater capacity and more facilities, manager Ian Green is focusing on building relationships with local groups, schools and clubs to get them to use the centre on a routine basis; block bookings are an important focus of the business model, driving guaranteed income and helping ensure targets are hit post-refurb.

Green says: “We’re talking to the school next door about how it can use the facility regularly, while Swindon Town FC is going to use the centre for its community programmes. Now that a sprung floor has been added, a Ceroc dance club has returned to use the hall. The new AGP gives us more flexibility for football usage, which means the hall can be marked out for other sports like badminton, netball, basketball.”

“We’re constantly reviewing our programmes anyway, but one thing we’ll continue to focus on is developing our junior activities,” adds Green. “We’ve also targeted corporate memberships since the refurb, and attracted the local fire service to join the gym.”

A refreshed class programme and a new member journey PT programme are also set to be introduced, and the customer journey inside the gym has also been redefined.

To ensure staff were on-board with the new approach, partner Alliance Leisure delivered training on customer service, sales and retention to the whole team, and ran a workshop on defining Grange Leisure’s new brand values, with the key focus on providing welcoming, friendly and motivating service.

Alliance is also helping the parish council promote the changes, with advertising, local media, and social media. Membership numbers are up by 20 per cent in the first month.

Originally published in Health Club Management 2014 issue 3

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