Fitness Facilities Make Your Community Stand Out

Having a fitness facility on site can influence renters' decisions, as they factor in the money saved on gym membership and, of course, the convenience. Cutting-edge facilities get extra points.

By Erika Schnitzer, Managing Editor

With healthy lifestyles and wellness concerns on the rise, Americans are increasingly focused on finding a true “state-of-the-art” fitness facility. And with longer commute times and more business traveling involved for many, the closer a facility is located to home, the better. The multifamily and hospitality industries, in particular, are raising the bar in terms of the fitness facilities they offer their customers.

As part of its “What Renters Want” survey series, Apartments.com asked renters about fitness trends, finding that the biggest obstacles preventing renters from working out were getting motivated (28 percent), long hours at work (25.5 percent), no on-site facility at the apartment community (17 percent) and no gym nearby or difficult to get to (15.2 percent).

“It’s a pretty attractive proposition if you have provided an amenity that’s strong enough to displace one’s heath club membership or to supplement it,” points out Bryan Green, founder and CEO of Advantage Fitness Products, which plans, designs, supplies, services and supports fitness facilities in various sectors, including multifamily, hospitality and corporate-based wellness.

If residents find a value in the fitness offerings of their communities, they often will be willing to factor that into their monthly rent payments, though Green advises against segmenting the fee. Most communities, he points out, have difficulty managing membership for an on-site fitness facility, as it is relatively easy for non-members to access. Blending a fee for the fitness center in with the rent can ease this concern.

And the return on such a facility is relatively quick. For communities of 100 residents or more, for example, Green has found that ROI can be as little as one year—and even less in larger buildings. “It’s a no-brainer compared to the type of impact it will have on residents’ decisions to select a community,” he says. “We’ve been told by many multifamily operators that the fitness center is number two or three in terms of most-important amenity.” And according to the findings from Apartments.com, more than 25 percent of respondents will not rent at a community that does not offer an on-site fitness center.

‘State-of-the-art’ facilities

Residents have become even more discerning as on-site fitness centers are now the rule rather than the exception. Especially when it has become increasingly common for apartment communities to describe them as “state-of-the-art” in their marketing materials. Sometimes this is an exaggeration.

“What makes it ‘state-of-the-art’ is a place that can be relied upon and has enough exercise balance to be valuable” to the resident, notes Green. “Although striving for exercise balance is the most critical aspect of approaching the design of a fitness facility, less is oftentimes more,” he says, pointing out that overcrowding a facility in a multi-housing community can be counter-intuitive if residents do not have enough space to workout.

He suggests a 60-30-10 balance: 60 percent of the space dedicated to cardiovascular equipment, including treadmills, bikes and ellipticals, to appeal to a broad range of residents; 30 percent of the facility dedicated to strength training products, including circuit training and free weights; and 10 percent set aside for multi-purpose, such as stretching, balance and core exercises.

“When we’re working in smaller environments, like multifamily or hospitality, we may need the same exercise variety, but we need smaller footprints of the equipment,” Green says. In addition, because most multifamily fitness facilities are unsupervised, it’s crucial to focus on user-friendly equipment and to select manufacturers that have built products specifically for this building type. Such equipment must be space-efficient and low maintenance, with instructional placards showing the exerciser how to use the equipment.

In addition to planning the space, it’s critical to maintain it—and the equipment within. In smaller areas, in particular, it’s critical to ensure all equipment is running properly, as just one malfunctioning treadmill, for example, could have a tremendous impact on a facility that only has a handful of machines to begin with. Green suggests rotating cardio equipment out every three years—around the time when the warranty is up—and turning over the strength training equipment approximately every five years.

Accessorizing is also a small but cost-effective way to make a multi-housing fitness facility stand out from the pack. By purchasing a few new stretching mats and exercise balls on a regular basis, for example, property managers demonstrate to their residents not only that they are thinking about the facility but also that they are considering their hygiene.

Product picks

Life Fitness’ Integrity Series Cardio line delivers durability through a combination of features, including the company’s patented FlexDeck Shock Absorption System on its treadmill and the Comfort Curve seat on its exercise bike. The line also offers a console with more options for personalized entertainment, including seamless iPod compatibility and integrated entertainment controls
(www.lifefitness.com).

Star Trac’s Instinct line can be used as a stand-alone strength line or as a circuit system. The dual adjustable pulley offers an accessory rack for multiple attachments, including two stirrup grips, one ankle strap, one long bar and a triceps/biceps curl bar. It includes rubber feet for floor protection, a Kevlar transmission belt for extended life and is available with either the company’s patented Lock N Load weight stack or a standard pin stack (www.startrac.com).

Paramount Fitness Corp.’s Fitness Line includes an eight-piece circuit that can be assembled in as little as 300 square feet. The machines feature yellow adjustment knobs and large instruction labels. The Multi-Press (pictured) offers four exercise choices, with dual hand-grips. Its five-position arm allows users to choose the range of motion that best suits their needs (www.paramountfitness.com).

Precor’s RBK 815 recumbent bike features a step-through design. The simple seat adjustment allows the user to change the position of the seat with one hand, either on or off the bike, and a ventilated seat back provides exceptional comfort. Precor’s self-powered UBK 815 upright bike features custom-designed handlebars with an integrated handheld heart rate for maximum comfort and efficient workout experience. It features one-handed seat adjustment, on or off the bike, redesigned saddle for riding comfort and improved knee over pedal spindle geometry for efficient pedaling (www.precor.com).