Competition with Choice facility will depend on audienceWhen Planet Fitness came to Grand Forks, “it almost killed us,” said Audrey Knutson, owner of the local Curves, a women-only franchise. So, Knutson is a little nervous as Choice Health & Fitness enters the marketplace this week.
By: Ryan Bakken, Grand Forks Herald
When Planet Fitness came to Grand Forks, “it almost killed us,” said Audrey Knutson, owner of the local Curves, a women-only franchise.
So, Knutson is a little nervous as Choice Health & Fitness enters the marketplace this week.
“Whenever you get a new facility, people want to try it out,” Knutson said. “But, in this case, Altru also is offering their employees a good deal to belong there.
“If it’s only Altru employees who go, that will be better than the mass exodus when Planet Fitness came here.”
Knutson’s business adjusted to last year’s arrival of Planet Fitness, which offers a similar workout atmosphere as her franchise, she said. The added competition was weathered as an under-performing Curves facility in East Grand Forks was closed, loans were refinanced and a lower-rent location was found.
She said Curves didn’t lose clientele when Snap Fitness and Anytime Fitness, two other franchises, entered the market. That’s because they appeal to a different customer.
However, she said she will be more concerned if additional employers offer discounted memberships at Choice, a publicly owned facility.
“I have mixed feelings,” Knutson said. “I understand where the city needs that type of center to attract new families. But when you have an attractive new center, it’s going to take people away.
“I want to keep the good relationship I’ve had with them. But it’s hard to be in competition with the city.”
Choice is “literally out our backdoor,” said Kathy Bohlman, manager of the Snap Fitness at 4571 South Washington St.
“We’ve already taken some cancellations and have some concerns. But we can add a personal touch because we’re smaller and we offer some different things.”
Jeff Barta, owner of the treatment-based Achieve Therapy, said he has concerns about private business competing with public entities.
“The public sector has decided advantages in the likes of property taxes, mailing rates and even advertising rates,” he said.
Emily Bakke, a local Planet Fitness manager, welcomes Choice.
“I think it’s a good thing because Grand Forks needs something a little more upscale,” she said. “I hear it’s a fantastic facility, which is cool for people who want that.”
Planet Fitness’ target audience is different, however, with lower prices, no body-building, no day care and no one allowed under the age of 13.
“A lot of our members are first-time gym members,” Bakke said. “Choice will work out perfectly for people looking for a family thing. And some will want to try it out because it’s new.
“People shop all around for fitness.”
Choice offers no competition for the UND Wellness Center, said Laurie Betting, the university’s vice-president for wellness.
Students are assessed a fee for the wellness center whether they use it or not, and about 85 percent of the students frequent it, she said. Faculty and staff can belong by paying a membership fee for the center, which opened in 2006.
“We serve a different audience,” Betting said. “We opened our doors and held them open, sharing all of our information with the park district and their consultants when they were in the designing stage. They’ve done a gazillion tours of our facility.
“Health and wellness should be shared by all.”
Cam Tweten, manager of both the new Choice facility and Center Court, agreed.
“It’s never been our goal to take away from other facilities,” Tweten said. “Our goal is to get more people active. If you have the right facility and the right programming, you can get a higher percentage of people to be active.”
John Staley, the Park District’s director, said statistics show that publicly owned facilities don’t damage private ones.
“In the cities with bigger and nicer public facilities, there are also more specialty fitness shops,” he said. “It’s as if people working out prompt others to do the same.”
Call Bakken at (701) 780-1125; (800) 477-6572, ext. 1125; or send email to email@example.com.