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The Top 10 Keys For A Successful Club Design

By: Bruce Carter

Bruce Carter

Successful club design is the creative process of combining layout, facilities, mechanicals, materials, finishes, lighting and colors. There are key things you should and should not do to better insure success with design, whether it is a new design or renovation. What is described here can be looked at as a checklist to keep things on track for an optimal end result:

  1. 1. Design for people’s positive experience. What do people see when they come in to your club? Better yet, what do they feel? Are they inspired, excited and will they want to come back for more? Does the environment provide energy where it is needed, yet also provide relaxation where needed? Remember, people are not buying a club, they are buying an experience, and they want to be motivated and welcomed. Most people need all the help they can get in starting and sticking with exercise, and proper design can be a tremendous asset for this. Design creates an experience, good, bad or indifferent. Make sure your club provides an exceptional experience.
  2. 2. Don’t go for “generic nice;” go for a WOW or OMG response. Related to number one, many clubs end up looking nice or “Okay.” The design choices may have some thought in them, but the extra work and experience needed to get a WOW or OMG is not there. Many think design is marginally important, and the club is mostly about the exercise and/or the price. Design should be looked at as an asset as much as any other component of a club. It is important to note that this can be achieved without having to spend a substantial amount of dollars.
  3. 3. Don’t do it yourself. Successful club interior design requires many correct decisions and choices, and everything has to successfully interact with everything else. For example, when someone walks into your club, they will be seeing at least 30 different components of lighting, finishes, architectural features and colors. There are countless choices and prices available to choose from when deciding how your club will look and function. It is therefore best to consider using architects/designers that have extensive club experience.
  4. 4. Design with revenue per square foot in mind. The dynamics of club revenue have been going through a noticeable change. Many clubs are shifting from a primarily dues-based revenue situation to a better balance of dues and non-dues revenue (such as fee-based programs including group and personal training, hot yoga, barre classes, suspension training, etc). In addition, along with this trend is the need for the general membership to have more space for functional/core training and stretching so new designs may result in less space for traditional equipment and more space for functional and group training. Design should allow for the potential of maximum revenue.
  5. 5. Design for a “green” club. There are a number of choices available that will save you utility expenses, such as energy efficiency lighting, HVAC systems and plumbing fixtures. Also, make sure your clubs has an HVAC system that moves air adequately, including removing moisture from locker rooms and continually bringing in fresh air to exercise areas. You will spend a little more in the beginning, but it is the smart way to go. Also, keep in mind that many of the materials you buy nowadays are already “green,” being made with fewer chemicals and using recycled materials. Take maximum marketing advantage of this by promoting your club as a “green” club.
  6. 6. Don’t make choices that will be difficult to keep clean and maintain. A strong trend with clubs is to look at the areas that will have a lot of “wear and tear” and use certain finishes so the spaces can remain intact or are easy to clean. For example, locker room entries and functional training area walls that get a lot of wear work better with finishes such as vinyl sheet flooring, laminate, tile or carpet squares. Once again, these choices will require some extra expense, but it is well worth it. Also, certain lighter color choices such as carpet will quickly look poorly.
  7. 7. Shop the competition before you design. Your club typically is not the only option people have for exercise, so a successfully-designed club environment should stand out from your competition. Design can give you a strong and unique competitive advantage. It does not mean you have to spend more or be larger than your completion, but your design can make you look exciting and impressive.
  8. 8. Your club should look like it is worth more than what you charge. With the growth of low-price clubs, pricing for clubs has become more sensitive than ever. Since most people dislike exercise, their general deep down feeling about price is, “You want me to pay how much, to go through some pain and discomfort?” So, your club should look like it is a good value. If you are $10 per month, your club should look like it costs more. If you are $39 per month, you should look a lot better than a competing $10 per month club. If you are over $50 per month, your club should immediately look like it is worth it.
  9. 9. Don’t design specifically for what you like. If you are the owner, you obviously would not want to come to your club if you do not like the design and decor. However, you are designing for a target market, to attract and please as many people as possible. The design is a key part of your marketing program. Therefore, what you like best may not be at all what will favorably appeal to the broadest amount of people. A common mistake with owners is to assume what they like is what everyone will like.
  10. 10. Don’t design by committee. When it comes to interiors, people have all kinds of “personal tastes.” If you went to their homes, they all would be different. Trying to arrive at a consensus from a number of people (such as staff or owners) of what the final design, finishes and color choices should be will, without a doubt, result in a sub-par end result. It is okay to have some input from maybe one or two key people, but the architect/designer should finalize what the choices will be, insuring that everything will work together.

Club design affects how much revenue a club can generate, how it can retain members and how it will compete. It surely is not the only variable but an ever-increasing important component to a club’s success. Being aware of certain key aspects of creative design will definitely add to your success.

As published on clubinsideronline.com, October 2015.