Detailed Planning And Public Participation

Photos Courtesy Of Brooke Peterson

Photos Courtesy Of Brooke Peterson

Running a successful fitness center within a community recreation facility is no easy feat. It’s difficult to know which fitness craze is here to stay and which is on its way out. There are however, six tactics any recreation center can employ to ensure the facility endures the tests of time.

1. Solicit input from the public.

2. Research and create a business plan.

3. Maintain equipment; replace it when necessary and keep it clean.

4. Establish a fee structure.

5. Find a balance in the classes offered.

6. Market the services.

The Tumbleweed Recreation Center (TRC) in Chandler, Ariz., is a dynamic facility that offers a unique blend of fitness and recreational classes. The center opened its doors to the public slightly more than 5 years ago, and has served nearly 2 million people during this time. The 62,000-square-foot facility features a fitness center, locker rooms, indoor track, gymnasium, two racquetball courts, exercise room, dance and art studios, classrooms, lounges, computer lab, child watch, and free Wi-Fi.

1. Solicit input from the public.

Without community feedback and buy-in, it is nearly impossible to be successful. Several years of careful planning and research laid the foundation for what the TRC has become. In the late 1990s, Chandler was growing exponentially, and there was a great need to provide additional services to residents. In the spring of 2000, things began to take shape for what became the TRC, with voter approval of a bond election.

In 2002, the city hired an independent research firm to conduct an extensive phone survey so residents could assist in developing and planning the center and its programming. The information received from these phone calls was invaluable.

2. Research and create a business plan.

By 2006, a staff management team was formed to develop an overall action, or business plan. The team turned to similar facilities in the surrounding communities to understand their processes. Information was gathered on pricing, programming, hours of operation, policies and procedures, financial reports, and promotions. Once a solid foundation of research and understanding was established, the team was able to develop a strategic business plan. One key component of any plan is to set a budget with targeted expenditures and revenues. From the research conducted, a pro-forma plan was developed that projected the expenses and revenues for the first 5 years of the TRC. This approach was particularly important in successfully completing management’s goal to offset 50 percent of the direct operating costs by the fourth full year of operation. Due to careful budgeting and planning years before opening, this goal was met during the first year of operation and every year since. 

3. Maintain equipment; replace it when necessary and keep it clean.  

The TRC implemented a 5-year replacement plan for all cardio machines earlier this year. Instead of asking city council for approval of large sums of money, it has been determined that requesting smaller incremental purchases is the best course of action. Planning by this method allows for fitness equipment to be replaced in phases, so there will always be a handful of machines under manufacturer warranty.

Whenever possible, purchase the extended warranty for high-use machines. Extended warranties will save more than average repair costs during the life of the warranty.

Preventive work will spare the facility staff the headache of broken machines and upset customers. This approach is done quarterly at TRC. Small issues such as lubrication and worn belts can be resolved before they break or shut down the machines unexpectedly. If possible, have a staff member trained on minor maintenance needs; this will ensure issues are addressed in a timely manner.

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