OVERLAND PARK, KS — Most health clubs may view Jazzercise as a competitor to their internal group exercise programs, but the Athletic Club of Overland Park doesn't see it that way. The club recently partnered with the nation's second largest Jazzercise franchise to layer on programming for its members, attract a broader clientele and compete with the four other health clubs within a half-mile radius.

“In an industry that's so competitive in its programming, it's important to have a lot of options to keep your members interested in your facility,” said Julie Heitkamp, fitness director for the Athletic Club. “Jazzercise is a unique type of group exercise program and attracts a unique client.”

More than 6,000 Jazzercise instructors teach 20,000 classes each week, but the Overland Park franchise is one of the first large stand-alone centers to move inside of a health club. Angie Ford, who leased a 3,600-square-foot center for 13 years, said the news of her move created buzz at a recent meeting with 170 center owners.

“They were drooling over the fact that I no longer have to do maintenance on my center and get to keep all of my classes,” Ford said. “A few people said that maybe I'm starting a new trend by moving my classes into a health club.”

Ford decided to move her 600 members and 45 classes across the street to the health club when her building was sold, and she wasn't able to reach an equitable lease agreement with the new out-of-town owners. She considered moving her Jazzercise franchise six years ago, but many of the area clubs didn't have the space for such a large group exercise program. The 50,000-square-foot Athletic Club, however, features a full-sized gym and two group exercise studios to accommodate the large Jazzercise classes.

Because Jazzercise and the Athletic Club are two separate entities, they each have their own check-in desks. Ford also requested that the club include some exterior signage to promote the Jazzercise franchise. To foster a sense of cooperation, Jazzercise and the Athletic Club plan to offer “community classes” to allow members of both entities to experience a new type of group exercise. The club will also offer a premium membership so members can attend Jazzercise classes and so Jazzercise members can use the full amenities of the health club.

While many of the Jazzercisers have embraced the change, some of the members don't like the idea of being in a health club, Ford said. She expected to lose about 20 customers, but so far, only six have cancelled their memberships.

“Some of my students have been coming to my center for 13 years, and I thought the change might freak them out,” she said. “The response has been very positive. Our members enjoy the fact that we still have the same schedule, programming and instructors.”

Heather Witt, a Jazzercise instructor, said the move to the health club has been beneficial for many reasons.

“We've been at the center for a long time, and the change helps to get students and instructors out of their rut,” she said. “It's different because it's not our own space, but it's nice to see what other people do in terms of fitness.”