SUMMING IT UP
• Member/guest surveys can help shape designs around the needs and wants of clientele.
• Experienced architects and contractors can help to ensure a facility will be functional.
• Finishing touches, like built- in televisions and easily accessible first-aid kits, can make a facility unique and user-friendly.
Le Triomphe G&CC found a winning solution to its recreational malaise: a custom-designed fitness center that invigorated all club activities.
Tennis was not serving Le Triomphe Golf & Country Club in Broussard, La., well. There were too many competing tennis facilities in the nearby city of Lafayette for the private country club to be a true player in the game.
“There isn’t a fitness facility or gym in the nearby area, so we decided to add a fitness center,” says David Church, Director of Golf, who spearheaded the fitness center project for the 600-member club. “We’re in a golf course community with 325 homes around us. We thought the demand would be there.”
Church was right. The demand for fitness was high—especially with Le Triomphe’s 100 social members, who don’t have golf course privileges but do have access to the club’s tennis courts, swimming pool and clubhouse. Adding a fitness center proved to be a great way to refresh that list of amenities and generate renewed interest in all club offerings.
Squeezing It In
Le Triomphe sits on 392 acres, but space in and around the clubhouse is limited. Church wanted the fitness center to be centrally located near the existing locker rooms and the pool. That meant sacrificing two meeting rooms on the club’s second floor, which left space for a 2,450-sq.-ft. fitness center overlooking the No. 1 fairway and the No. 18 green.
In September 2006, Le Triomphe’s management hired a consulting group to guide it through the design and creation of the fitness center.
“The consultant used our mailing lists to survey our members and find out what they were interested in, what hours of operation they would like, what classes they might take, and more,” Church says. “They compiled all the data and let us know what our members wanted. We tweaked their plan slightly, based on subsequent conversations with members, but took 99% of what they gave us: from laying out the fitness center to which machines to purchase to what types of classes to offer.”
In September 2006, the walls between the meeting rooms were removed. The space was a blank canvas. Now all that was needed to begin construction was the seal of approval from a structural engineer and a local architect. But in the middle of the housing boom, structural engineers who would take on a relatively small job were few and far between.
“We had to halt the project for 35 days, waiting for the structural engineer to come out,” Church says.
When the engineer finally did arrive, he recommended adding beams across the ceiling and two posts to help support the load. The architect suggested making a double wall between the fitness center and adjacent ballroom, and using sound-dampening materials that would contain the noise from the fitness center.
The heating, ventilation and air conditioning system in Le Triomphe’s clubhouse had enough capacity to heat and cool the fitness center, so only minor duct re-routing and new vents were needed on that front. When it came time to add new electrical circuits, however, Church decided to install dedicated circuits, to allow for future expansion.
The Finishing Touches
With construction complete about nine months after it began, Church was ready to fill the fitness center with equipment. With recommendations based on the member survey, Church had three equipment packages from which to choose.
“The consultants gave us choices of A, B or C, based on the quality of the equipment,” Church says. “They recommended we not skimp on the machines, and we agreed. We want the equipment to last.”
Le Triomphe ordered 12 pieces of cardio equipment, including four treadmills, three elliptical machines, four stationary bikes and a stair climber. It also installed eight weight machines and a bench press/squat machine.
Church opted for a maintenance contract on the equipment, which costs about $1,500 a year and includes monthly maintenance checks.
Le Triomphe’s consultant recommended the safest layout of the equipment. There is a minimum of 6 feet of clearance behind the machines, and 3 feet of clearance all around them. Rubberized flooring was used under the weight machines and in the classroom area, and tight-pile carpet covered the rest of the floor. A defibrillator and first-aid kits were also added for safety.
After a total investment of about $350,000, Le Triomphe’s fitness center was ready for members to enjoy.
“The membership had a very positive reaction,” Church says. “We had more people in there during the first week than I’ve seen on the tennis courts in the 15 years I’ve been here.”
And the biggest draw of all, he notes, were the television screens mounted on each of the cardio machines.
Bringing in the Expert
To serve its members, Le Triomphe hired a certified fitness instructor who could not only teach fitness classes and explain how to use the equipment, but could also field a wide range of members’ questions, ranging from weight loss to strength building.
“Having a professional fitness person on staff is very important,” Church says. “At a country club, that person needs to know nutrition, fitness and the machines. Obviously, they need to be very customer-service oriented.”
At Le Triomphe, that person is Lucia Meehan. She helps members, especially the elderly, conduct safe workouts. No one under 16 is allowed in the fitness center unless accompanied by an adult, or unless Meehan has trained and approved them.
Meehan also organizes classes, teaching some of them herself and hiring outside instructors to come in as needed.
“Right now, we’re offering about six classes a week,” she says. “We have a good turnout, especially for the aquatic aerobic classes in the summer. With the popularity of golf at the club, we also teach a lot of sports conditioning. Any conditioning class with the word ‘golf’ in front of it gets a better turnout.”
The class lineup is re-examined each fall to get ready for the fitness center’s busy season, which is just after New Year’s. Regular e-mail surveys to members also help Meehan decide if anything new or different should be offered.
Meehan is on hand during the peak early-morning period; however, Church says it’s important to have someone staffing the fitness center at all times.
“We don’t want kids climbing unsupervised on $195,000 worth of equipment,” Church says. “But more importantly, we especially don’t want anyone getting hurt.”
While Le Triomphe has no immediate plans for expansion, Church says they did leave room for growth when planning their new fitness center.
“My advice would be to err on the big side in terms of space,” he says. “You don’t want to invest in something you’re going to outgrow.”