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Renovating a Legend

By: Bruce Carter

Bruce Carter

After winning a Super Bowl and having a perfect season, Coach Don Shula, along with his partners, the Graham Companies, opened a spectacular club in Miami Lakes, Florida in 1982. They hired a General Manager, Bill Higgs, whose objective was to achieve the success with the club that would live up to its namesake heritage. The 45,000 square-foot Shula’s Athletic Club opened with beautiful facilities, including fitness, racquetball, basketball and tennis.

The club changed with the times over the years while consistently maintaining a substantial level of dependable success, a testament to the operator, Bill Higgs, who’s been with the club for over 30 years. Racquetball was eventually eliminated to make more room for fitness. Physical therapy and a full service spa were also added.

A number of competitors have opened in recent years, and Bill communicated to the owners that it was, once again, time to make changes. But, this time, the club needed an entirely new atmosphere to go along with its reputation of being friendly, inviting and welcoming to families and the serious minded fitness market.

  • Shula's Lobby (Before)
  • Shula's Lobby (After)
  • Shula's Locker Room (Before)
  • Shula's Locker Room (After)

Shula’s image somewhat mirrored the Shula Hotel and Conference Center, The Shula Golf Club and the original Shula Steakhouse, all within a mile of one another. It had a country club style décor that, at one time, gave the facility an exclusive upscale image. But, a new environment was needed to keep the club a leader for fitness recreation in the Miami marketplace.

Shula’s interviewed a variety of architects for the renovation and selected Optimal Design Systems International, because of our vast experience of making dramatic club changes while also being very strict on getting the most value for the dollar.

We knew from the beginning that the renovation had to be dramatic and worthy of the Shula name. We started off by making recommendations on what should be done and then dividing it up into two phases. The first phase was to create a new, exciting image, and the second phase would involve adding on to the building for more facilities. Then, a number of contractors submitted bids, and we assisted in selecting and making recommendations on awarding the bids. The Graham Companies has extensive experience in the bid process, having developed millions of square feet of commercial property.

The renovation took about five months, and the club remained open the entire time. Different areas were shut down at different times, and they had the ability to shift the entrance of the club to different areas as well to allow the remodeling to go on without delay.

The result? According to veteran General Manager, Bill Higgs, “We had planned on renovating the club for several years and finally chose Bruce Carter and the Optimal Design Team to head up our project. The finished product is far better than I imagined, and I’ve never heard so many members say, ‘Thank you,’ in my 30 years of club operations and numerous prior renovations. The club has a totally new feel and attraction to it, and the buzz generated around our community is proving to be the best marketing initiative in years. The key is I feel we got the best ‘bang for our buck‘ from our remodeling investment.”

Before and After

Lobby – The lobby involved all new finishes for the walls, flooring, desk and paint. The only new addition to the space was a water wall that replaced a solid wall giving the first impression an upscale “WOW” factor. This provided a lot of change for minimal dollars.

Cardio Area – The cardio area off the lobby was changed from racquetball courts a number of years ago. Again, only finishes and lighting were changed, including new paint, flooring, hanging drum lights and graphics with accent lighting.

Upstairs Walkway – The changes include new paint, flooring, new signage and windows looking into different studios.

Studio 1 – The club has four group studios, and they all received new paint, floor refinishing and hanging drum lights for an entirely new look. The larger studio added storage to eliminate the clutter in the room.

Locker Rooms – Received new vanities, granite, wall coverings, sinks, faucets, wall tile and locker refinishing.

The Shula Athletic Club has always been one of the premier clubs in South Florida, and this recent renovation has resulted in increased business, even after all these years of being in operation. Members now, more than ever, want to be at the club. The staff has always been exceptional, and the new atmosphere makes Shula’s better than ever.

As published on clubinsideronline.com, June 2012.