Private fitness clubs unfazed by massive Grand Forks Park District clubThe Grand Forks area has experienced something of a fitness boom in the past decade, with private fitness clubs and gyms opening all across town. That includes Snap Fitness, a franchise of 24-hour clubs that gained its second location in the city when a new facility opened in 2007 at 4571 S. Washington St. But the privately owned Snap Fitness will soon have to contend with a new heavyweight in Grand Forks’ health scene scheduled to open just across the street — the massive $25 million Choice Health and Fitness Center.
The Grand Forks area has experienced something of a fitness boom in the past decade, with private fitness clubs and gyms opening all across town and attracting new members with convenient hours, low-cost memberships and unique perks to cater to different groups of would-be fitness buffs.
That includes Snap Fitness, a franchise of 24-hour clubs that gained its second location in the city when a new facility opened in 2007 at 4571 S. Washington St.
Manager Kathy Bohlman said business has been steady, with customers choosing the club because of its convenient hours and low-cost membership options.
But the privately owned Snap Fitness will soon have to contend with a new heavyweight in Grand Forks’ health scene scheduled to open just across the street — the massive $25 million Choice Health and Fitness Center that will be owned and operated by the Park District when it opens in the late summer or fall.
“It’s right at our backdoor, so yes, there is some concern,” Bohlman said. “Obviously they have more amenities, but our market is about the convenience and affordability. There’s going to be members that say, ‘Oh wow,’ and they may leave for a while, but they may eventually come back.”
The ‘new’ factor
As a measure of how fit the fitness industry is in Grand Forks area, consider that the Qwest telephone directory from 2002 listed just six fitness centers, including Center Court Fitness Club, the Park District facility that the Choice fitness center will replace. At the time, Center Court was the biggest in the land with 72,000 square feet.
Today, Google lists 10 fitness centers, including large ones that didn’t exist 10 years ago, such as UND’s 107,000-square-foot Wellness Center.
Choice will add even more capacity with 159,000 square feet of space.
Yet, operators of private fitness center seem unfazed.
Bohlman compared the impact of Choice’s opening on business at Snap Fitness to the impact of Planet Fitness, which opened in early December.
Planet Fitness, among the largest privately-owned fitness centers in the area has less than 15,000 square feet of space.
Snap Fitness membership numbers did not see the usual wintertime boost because the unaffiliated or newly interested fitness buffs instead chose to sign up at Planet Fitness, she said. “It’s just the curiosity and it’s new.”
Planet Fitness Manager Emily Bakke said she did see a “huge” wave of members when the facility first opened. Membership numbers have since waned, with some canceling for the warm summer months, but Bakke said the club expects to see numbers rise again this fall as temperatures drop.
Finding a niche
Choice could be a main competitor for Planet Fitness, which already competes with the Y Family Center and Center Court, according to Bakke. Planet Fitness sets itself apart by skipping “extras,” such as child care, swimming pools, juice bars and basketball courts that are offered at the larger facilities. Instead, it focuses on convenient hours, affordable membership and a “non-intimidating atmosphere” away from bodybuilders and power lifters.
Choice membership starts at $53 a month while Planet Fitness membership starts at $10 a month.
“It’s all just boiled down so we can keep the prices low and keep the focus on the fitness part,” Bakke said.
Many of the other privately-owned fitness clubs in Grand Forks target specific niche markets that set them apart from Choice, which will be marketed to all residents.
Curves, situated in a strip mall along Columbia Road, offers fitness and weight loss services for women. CrossFit Tundra, which opened its doors in January at 6105 Gateway Drive, has its own clientele — “athletes,” not members, who shun exercise machines as they follow the CrossFit strength and conditioning program.
Owner Chad Spradlin said his gym boasts about 80 regular “athletes,” catering to the person who “really wants to get in there and actually sweat, lift and lose some weight and gain some strength” in an environment where exercise is made into its own sport.
Spradlin said his gym’s unique atmosphere should help his business continue to stand out in a crowded fitness market
“At fitness clubs, most of your people are coming in and doing something for an hour just to work towards being physically fit,” he said. “For the CrossFitters, it’s a lot different. It’s somebody that wants something more and is looking for something a little different, a little more hardcore.”
Bakke said even when Choice opens, there could be plenty of members to keep all the gyms in town packed as residents of Grand Forks increasingly work to get in better shape.
“Even just 5ks and 10ks are becoming more popular for fundraisers,” she said. “Everyone’s realizing that it’s time to start doing something about their weight and their health.”
Reach Johnson at (701) 780-1105; (800) 477-6572, ext. 105; or send email to firstname.lastname@example.org.