A few years ago, property managers could buy a couple of multi-exercise machines, a treadmill, and a stationary bike; stick them in a room with mirrors and a TV; and voila: A perfectly serviceable fitness room for your community.
Today’s communities are increasingly installing top-of-the-line equipment in their fitness centers, on par with local fitness clubs. In some higher-end communities, they’ve even got virtual reality machines, Wi-Fi, community league sports teams, and residential fitness programs of every stripe.
If it’s been a while since you gave your community fitness center and the many activities and benefits arising from it an overhaul, it’s probably time to up your game in that department.
Take a good look at your fitness center. Are people using it regularly; or is it typically a pretty lonely place, even during what should be peak hours? If people aren’t using your fitness center regularly, there’s likely a disconnect between your condo or HOA fitness center facility and the people living in your development.
Fitness never goes out of style–but specific activities absolutely do come in and out of favor. Who would have thought 20 years ago that pole dancing studios would become a fitness craze for young women?
According to the Sports Club Association, 25- to 34-year-olds are the most likely to maintain a private gym membership. If this is a target demographic for you, then your fitness center is a key selling point. Indeed, you will have sales made or broken when the leasing or sales agent shows off the community fitness center.
And what do they want and expect? You can answer that question by walking into your local L.A. Fitness, Bally’s, 24-Hour Fitness, or other major fitness center that has been effective in marketing to your demographic. Here’s what you’ll find:
- Cardio machines with headphone jacks and personal entertainment options
- Built-in fans and excellent climate control to keep exercisers cool while they’re working out
- Good lighting
- A mix of cardio/endurance and strength training equipment
- Secure access and good visibility: Young women do not want to be exercising alone in an isolated area of the property
- Outside views, for both aesthetic and safety reasons
- Space: Cluttered exercise areas are unsafe and distracting
Managers should also bear liability issues in mind: While dedicated weightlifters and bodybuilders much prefer a good selection of free weights, these weights also present more potential liability to the association than Nautilus-style weight machines.
Other ways to add value for residents:
- Have a freelance instructor conduct Zumba, yoga, pilates, or fitness “boot camp” programs. (Ensure that any instructors you use carry their own liability insurance, which helps to protect both you and your residents.)
- Consider allowing a freelance personal trainer to work with residents on-site–or if demand is sufficient (for larger properties), consider hiring one.
- Promote fitness activities and community spirit by encouraging contests and activity clubs within your development.
With a little creativity, community managers have a chance to carve out a niche for themselves that large fitness centers are having trouble serving–and competing properties aren’t serving at all: Small group fitness training.
Your L.A. Fitness Center down the block is very good at filling a class with 30 or 40 fitness enthusiasts–but that can be a turn-off to the shy or out of shape.
That’s where the small group training concept comes in. People can come together for a small group workout with friends and neighbors under the tutelage of a knowledgeable coach. The trainer’s hourly rate is split several ways, so a great, fun workout can cost just a few dollars each–and the group is small enough to manage in a reasonably sized fitness room or common area.
As the article from the American Council on Exercise points out, it’s also a superior method for movement training, since the trainer is able to provide better feedback on execution.
Your association could contract with a trainer for next to no money (the trainer handles collecting his or her own fees, or you could do it via a sign-in sheet at the front desk).
Some additional tips:
- Don’t forget to feature your awesome fitness center in brochures and in photos or virtual tours on your website.
- Consider a “fitness trail” around your property, with calisthenic stations and fixed benches and equipment at various spots around the grounds.
- Ensure that your leasing staff is trained on the specific benefits of the center; how to use each piece of equipment; and basic safety guidelines.
Writing about personal finance and investments since 1999, Jason Van Steenwyk started as a reporter with Mutual Funds Magazine and served as editor of Investors’ Digest. He now publishes feature articles in many publications including Annuity Selling Guide, Bankrate.com, and more.