Estimating the cost of a new club is straightforward in that you know the conditions at the starting point, but determining the cost to renovate a club involves a number of variables that differ substantially from those of building a new facility.

Renovations occur at one of two levels. The first level is a facelift that involves mostly new finishes, colors, wall and floor coverings, accents, graphics and furnishings. This type of renovation does not require a building permit. The second level involves aspects of the first level plus moving walls, demolition, changing plumbing, electrical, lighting, HVAC components and possible structural changes or adding to an existing space. The second level of renovations requires a building permit.

Often, towns require that the building owner must meet all (or most all) of the current building codes to get a building permit. For example, your space may not have sprinklers, but when pulling a permit, the club may now be required to add sprinklers. Other fire safety issues also may have to be addressed.

Another common code update involves handicap accessibility (ADA) issues, which could include adding handicap accessible toilets, showers, reception desk access and access to different levels (which may involve a ramp or elevator). The cost of these updates can be significant. For example, adding a handicap toilet often involves ripping out an existing toilet so an adjacent toilet can be expanded to meet the  handicap code. A handicap toilet space size is 7 feet, 6 inches by 6 feet, 4 inches, and a shower is 5 feet by 4 feet plus a 5-foot turning radius in front of the shower.

Handicap accessibility to different levels may mean adding a ramp or elevator. For every one inch height differentiation, there needs to be a one-foot ramp length. The cost of a commercial elevator can cost from $30,000 to $75,000 or more, depending on installation issues and number of floors. Often, an electrical handicap lift (not a motorized stair unit) can meet codes, is only for the purpose of a handicap use, and can cost $15,000 to $30,000.

The second key cost issue in a renovation is deciding what to keep and what to change. Often, renovations involve only changing certain items while keeping others. An example would be to replace wall tile in a bathroom but not the floor tile. Certain lighting might remain but all new accent lighting may be added, or the main lighting may be changed to more efficient units. (Check with your local utility companies about possible rebates for such conversions).

The third key cost issue is that many aspects of a renovation will require the removal of existing items before new materials can be used, and this adds to the cost—sometimes substantially. For example, it usually costs $7 to $10 per square foot to buy and install new ceramic tile. If existing tile has to be removed, it can add 30 percent to 50 percent more to the project. Sometimes if the tile is in good condition, new tile can be installed over the existing tile, but this will need to be checked by a good tile installer. When tile is removed in areas such as locker rooms, the sheet rock often has rotted and has to be replaced, and mold may be found, which adds more substantial costs to remove.

Often, items such as a reception desk can be re-laminated for 15 percent to 20 percent of what it would cost to build a new desk. Changing light fixtures can cost from $100 to $200 per fixture, including labor and equipment, but can make a dramatic change in an environment. Most renovations benefit from a significant change in color. Painting typically costs about $1.40 per square foot.

Not all renovations involve things that are visible. Mechanical issues may require that a new, more efficient system or upgrades are necessary. Often, an HVAC system may not be able to cool, heat or move enough air (such as in locker rooms where odors and moisture are not controlled properly). Plumbing issues often involve toilets and urinals that are older and use more water than are required by code. However new toilets and urinals are not expensive unless you go with touchless systems that can raise the cost of a unit from $300 to $800. Other units, such as touchless electric hand dryers, can cost $500 but are a desirable new feature of a renovated locker room.

Renovation costs vary considerably because of all the areas possibly involved in renovations and the level of change desired in each area. The goal is to make the most impact for the least money, which requires planning and researching costs. Once costs are determined, a club owner can prioritize what should be done first and what may get done in a future renovation phase. It has been continually proven that changing a club environment is critical to the long-term competitiveness and strength of a club.

BIO

Bruce Carter is the president of Optimal Fitness Design Systems International, a club design firm that has created about $650 million worth of clubs in 45 states and 26 countries. He can be reached at bruce@optimaldsi.com.