Posted on May 06, 2011
The locker room is easily one of the most utilized spaces inside the club. It’s the place where members seek refuge before and after a workout and it’s a place where they can escape, relax and refresh. The locker room in many respects is as important to your club’s image as the entrance into your club because it is where the majority of your members will go before and after every workout. Jill Kinney, the managing director of Clubsource Development Partners, said clubs often play down locker rooms and spend too little on the room’s development. For a club to function at its highest capacity, Kinney suggested that clubs seriously consider dropping some extra cash into their locker rooms – the payoff could be astonishing.
By Tyler Montgomery
The First Take
Just about every club member goes straight to the locker room before they head out onto the fitness floor. It’s the locker room that is every member’s first impression of your club. “One of the biggest mistakes in designing a club is the lack of recognition that the locker room is the most highly utilized space in the club,” Kinney said. “It’s so important you take into account personal space. You can put 30 to 40 percent of your budget into the locker room because of all the finishes, amenities and plumbing, but if you get it right it can really change the overall use of the space.”
In the initial phase of a club’s development it can be a common mistake of not devoting enough space to the locker room area. If the club’s locker room is a bit tight, some small steps can be made to give it more space and that new feel.
The Look, The Feel
What does the look and feel matter in a locker room? Members are only going to rush in, change and rush out, right? Wrong. Members use the locker for refuge in your club. They want to feel like they are the king of the world and are receiving the amenities they are paying for.
“We have been trending towards a more comfortable feel in our locker rooms by creating more privacy, warmer lighting and finishes,” said Anthony Dimaggio, the senior director of design and construction with Town Sports International (TSI). “With the introduction of rich wood tones, soft wall colors and glass and ceramic tile accents, we have created more of an oasis from the high energy of the fitness area.”
Members will use the locker room for a million different reasons. Some will shower after a workout; some will sit down for a quick break to catch up with business e-mails. Regardless of their agenda, they all want to be comfortable. “Start with what’s important – a member’s perception of a clean facility drives member retention,” said Mike Hanes, the marketing director for health and fitness for GOJO. “Research shows that the more a club spends on housekeeping, the better its performance in other categories such as revenue growth and member retention.”
“Small touches can go a long way when considering the member experience,” Dimaggio added. “Allowing for extra privacy and dry-off areas in the showers is always welcomed when we have the space. The use of professional-grade hair dryers and high quality personal hygiene products is appreciated by our members.” Club members want to feel at home in the locker room. By supplying top-notch amenities, the members will consider your club part of the hierarchy of clubs in their community.
The truth about locker rooms is, you can never go too far. The member should have a sense of home-style comfort in the locker room – making them feel like they are at a resort shouldn’t be out of the question. Kinney explained that members could travel on home to shower and wind down. However, she said that is the last option you want to give your members. The longer they are in the club, the better they are going to feel and the more of an asset they are to your club. Kinney, who has primarily designed spaces for Club One in San Francisco, said they have gone so far as to implement children’s locker rooms.
“It allows us to keep the comfort zone in the main locker room,” she explained. “If it is uncomfortable for anyone, especially adults, they just won’t come back. The cost of building a children’s locker room is well worth it.” The children’s locker rooms are made strictly for kids under the age of 13. If they are under the age of 13, they are prohibited from using the regular locker rooms. “We have gone so far as to develop family changing areas,” Kinney continued. “We found it could be uncomfortable for both parties having a father and his young daughter changing in the regular locker room. The family changing rooms provide seclusion and prevent that type of awkwardness in the main locker rooms.”
More & More Amenities
Don’t be afraid to bring extra benefits into locker rooms. Even the smallest items can impress members and make them more comfortable in your club. Some have complimentary shaving cream, soap, toothpaste, etc. Some clubs install saunas and spas into their locker rooms, giving the member that high-end experience.
“Clubs are offering large infrared saunas in locker rooms with cutting edge technology such as Solocarbon heat and SO Sound Therapy,” said Lauren Krull, the fitness account manager for Sunlighten. “Solocarbon is the only infrared heater available that has been clinically tested to lower blood pressure, raise core temperature and aid in weight loss.”
According to Krull, members are able to burn up to 600 calories in just one 30-minute session. “Other health benefits include faster muscle recovery, detoxification, relaxation, pain relief and blood pressure reduction,” she explained. “Once members experience these benefits it will increase member retention.”
“Clubs are becoming more technologically advanced, and locker room upgrades can not only make the club experience more pleasant for members, but can enhance security, ease of use and locker room efficiency,” said Doug Greene, the marketing manager for Zephyr Lock. “The use of traditional locking solutions, such as member supplied padlocks, have become a very inefficient way for clubs to manage their locker rooms and provide security of their members’ possessions. In locker rental situations, members will be looking for value in the locker room and better locker room amenities. Clubs are getting smarter about locker room design by taking advantage of technology such as electronic locks for their lockers.”
“Space and cost are usually the primary concerns,” said Ricardo Alva, the director of sales at Lockers.com. “For space, we are seeing a move towards the double tier or triple tier box type. Rather than committing to a solid oak, the designer lockers provide a very nice middle ground and it allows for renovations that stand out without spending a ton of money. They are already fully assembled, so it’s very easy for club owners to have the lockers swapped out.”
Anytime Fitness’ Vice President of Franchise Support Eric Keller said their franchisees ultimately decide what amenities to provide to their members. However, they are required to provide the basics of quality spa shampoo, conditioner and soap. “We have some clubs that choose to add dryers, mouth wash, deodorant and personal care products,” Keller said. “We encourage our franchisees to match the style with sensible construction costs that make sense in their given market place.”
Clubsource designs for lounge areas both inside and between each of the adult locker rooms. “The entire club has Wi-Fi,” Kinney said. “The quality of the TV and audio systems has improved over the last few years. We see a lot more digital advertising with TVs instead of using paper posters and things of that nature. You have streaming video so you have a little more information and a story on in the background.”
The lounge areas in the locker rooms give people a place to relax and catch up on a game, news or any other media concern. “Lounge areas outside of the locker rooms provide members with an additional place to socialize and check their phones and e-mail,” Kinney explained. “We don’t allow phones in the club so this is a place they can get reconnected with work and other activities.” The outer lounge area also provides members with a small café and area to grab a quick shake or snack following their workout.
Putting It Together
Maybe your club is redefining its locker rooms or reading this article has made you think it needs a change. Maybe you love the club’s locker room, but it could really handle an upgrade. Regardless of the club’s position, change will need to eventually occur to keep members interested and paying their dues.
“People always compliment us on the materials we use,” Kinney said. “They ask us where we got the materials so they can put them in their own homes.” The simplest additions can completely change the outlook of the club. “We are seeing clubs switch to electronic locks, especially with the more high-end and 24-hour clubs,” Alva said. “Rather than having to issue keys or letting members use pad locks, they are installing keyless entry. It’s definitely more expensive, but there are no more worries about key control or damage to lockers with pad locks.”
Alva said a lot of clubs were switching to smaller, cubby-type lockers. A lot of clubs aren’t seeing the necessity of having full-length lockers – they have found the small lockers give people more space, but still let them lock up their personal items. “From a space standpoint, you can get more lockers for the same price with the box-style locker,” Alva added.
“Small touches can go a long way when considering the member experience,” Dimaggio said. “The convenience of the layout and traffic patterns of the member is always taken into consideration as a top priority. We try and create more personal space with the addition of the new larger lockers set in alcoves, built in benches, larger showers with opaque resin doors and more vanity space. We have also increased the size of the saunas to accommodate more people.”
Regardless of the size, locker rooms aren’t necessary for a club to function. However, if the club is going to perform highly and bring in and retain members, high-end locker rooms are completely necessary. Clearly, developing a haven for members in a locker room just takes a little ingenuity and some club character. Although, the creation may eradicate about 40 percent of your budget, the response from members and the growth received will be insurmountable. -CS