Are fitness centers ready for a shakeout?


Source: mollynap.com

Source: mollynap.com

I don’t know about your community, but here in Greater Lansing there has been an explosion of fitness centers in the past few years. No longer is fitness relegated to the YM/WCA, the community recreation center, or the local athletic club. Today, a plethora of private, for-profit franchise fitness establishments have sprouted up like dandelions in spring across the city. Nearly every strip commercial shopping center of any size has at least one fitness operation as a tenant.

Source: burnsmcd.com

Source: burnsmcd.com

Given the sheer numbers, sooner or later it seems their ranks will have to be slimmed down in a market shakeout. Within a few miles of where I am right now are several Curves, a Planet Fitness, an Anytime Fitness, a Fitness Together, several Snap Fitness, a Fitness USA, a Gold’s Gym, and a series of independent operators. Market niches range from 24/7 operations, to one-on-one training, to $10/month membership fees, to easily accessible multiple locations, to specifically catering to the fitness needs of women.

Reviewing the internet about the franchise chain operations shows that we in Mid-Michigan are not alone. Snap FitnessAnytime Fitness, and Curves all have well over 1,000 locations, while Planet Fitness, Fitness Together, and Gold’s Gym each have nearly 500 or more.

So…what does this all mean for urban planners. Well, for one, most of the newer entities operate on a 24/7/365 time frame. That may not be an appropriate use in all commercial zoning districts, particularly those abutting or close to single-family residential neighborhoods. Secondly, your code may have special requirements for uses operating around the clock which may need Planning Commission approval. Lastly, when the inevitable shakeout does occur in what seems to becoming an over-saturated market, there will be empty retail spaces for property managers to fill in concert with local economic development professionals.  Here locally, the number of Curves’ locations has already receded from its peak of several years ago.

As the number of successful fitness centers can attest to, there is an ample market for such fitness-oriented uses. However, the question remains on how many of these individual sites can survive an increasingly over-saturated marketplace? In the end, only time will tell.

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