Although the annual Best of the Best competition is a nationwide battle to be named “the best” in various types of programming, this year's winners all have one thing in common. Coincidentally, they're all based in the Lone Star state.

Bodyworks Family Sports Center in Lubbock, TX, won two top honors in best community-based/nonmember program and best children's program. Best behavior modification program went to Texins Activity Centers in Dallas, and best new member integration program went to the Cooper Aerobics Center at Craig Ranch in McKinney, TX.

Besides having their programs featured on the following pages, the winners will also be given their awards at 2 p.m. on Friday, Oct. 12, as part of the Club Industry Show, Oct. 10-13 in Chicago. During the free, 90-minute awards ceremony, the winners will offer presentations about their winning programs.

All Best of the Best entries were rated on a scale of 1 to 10 based on their innovation, goal attainment, budgeting, participation, marketing and follow-up efforts. This year, the Club Industry's Fitness Business Pro editors even judged a few entries themselves, along with the help of a panel of judges (listed on the facing page) who were chosen for their expertise in certain categories. Each judge's totals were tallied, resulting in a total score for each club. The facility with the highest score in each category was awarded the Best of the Best title.

We'd like to congratulate all of this year's winners and thank all facilities that entered the competition. Now, turn the pages to read more about the winning programs and what makes them the Best of the Best.

Best Behavior Modification Program

Texins Activity Centers
Dallas, TX

Healthily Ever After

It's hard for Saudia Shaheed-Kroviak to pick just one success story from Texins Activity Centers' Your Weigh…Together program, but if pressed, she'll pick Steve Zuhoski. Zuhoski started the 10-week program in September 2006 and has completely changed his lifestyle.

“He is a role model for the other participants, and now a year later, he has reached his weight-loss goal of 80 pounds and is continuing with his good nutrition and increased physical activity,” says Shaheed-Kroviak, marketing and business development manager at Texins, which is located on the Texas Instruments (TI) campus in Dallas.

The program, which is led by Health Fitness Corp. health professionals, addresses the gap between knowing what to do and actually doing it. It also focuses on the need for introspection, learning new skills and developing personal commitment to a healthy lifestyle.

Membership at Texins is open to active TI employees, TI retirees, TI contract employees, affiliates, sponsored members, spouses and dependents. Texins members and nonmembers each pay $149 per 10-week session. Besides receiving information about healthy and active living, participants receive group support, tools to track progress and an individualized focus. Nonmembers also receive a free, 10-week membership to the facility.

The program not only helps get people fit, but it also reduces costs for TI.

“With oversized portions, packed schedules yielding high stress and an inactive nation, programs like Your Weigh…Together are needed now more than ever,” Shaheed-Kroviak says. “With health care costs through the roof and the obesity epidemic taking over, more and more corporations are looking for preventive measures to help employees lead healthier lifestyles.”

In fact, the average weight loss in the program is 10 ½ pounds per person, and more than 80 percent of those who participate in the program lose inches from their waist, lower their blood pressure and body fat percentage, and increase their flexibility.

The program has brought in additional revenue. Although participation numbers vary by session, on average more than 50 people enroll in the program, adding up to more than $8,000 a month in revenue.

Graduates of the program who are looking to maintain their success can participate in future sessions as needed at no additional charge. Texins brings in outside speakers and creates an assortment of handouts and visuals to make each session a little different, Shaheed-Kroviak says.

The program, which is in its eighth round, also went online this month.

“TI has locations across the United States, and since we cannot physically be in all these locations to offer the program, this is the next best option,” Shaheed-Kroviak says.

No matter where the location, Zuhoski will continue to be a strong advocate for the program, even lending his testimonial to TI's marketing materials.

“It's never too late to learn healthy weight-loss and weight-management practices,” Zuhoski is quoted on a Your Weigh…Together flyer. “I feel better, sleep better, have more energy, lower blood pressure and have vastly improved my general health status.”

Best Children's Program

Bodyworks Family Sports Center
Lubbock, TX

Get into the GO! Zone

The goal of the Bodyworks GO! Youth Fitness Program's Family Sports Center was to give its members — the majority of which are families — a place to grow healthier, happier and closer than ever. Since opening the center in January 2006, the Bodyworks staff members have focused on getting younger children involved with fitness in the hopes that what they learn about fitness now will stay with them throughout their lives. Even though staff members say that they have accomplished this, they decided to tackle a new market: the popular teen and tween demographic.

The Bodyworks staff targeted this market by creating new classes for this not-quite child, not-quite adult demographic. After some research, the staff learned that teens and tweens were too old for the “little kid” classes but didn't fit in with the “cool” adult-style classes, either. The staff also researched community schedules, such as sports practice schedules and school schedules, so that classes were planned when families and young people were available.

By closing the basketball court once a week, the facility created a few “power hours” for teens and tweens. Power hours are held in the AthletiZone, the indoor basketball court, or the RepZone, the hydraulic strength-training equipment area.

Bodyworks offers classes to both members and nonmembers. Programming for teens and tweens includes Bodyworks Dance!, consisting of ballet, tap, jazz, hip-hop, pom and technique; GO! Martial Arts; and its newest and most successful program, Bodyworks Swim!, which is taught year-round by certified Red Cross personnel.

The program has been well received, says Kristi Franks, Bodyworks youth fitness director.

“Overall, the teen and tween classes have benefited us most by creating what we call the buzz factor,” Franks says. “Since the program is brand new, our focus right now is to get the word out to our entire community. This age bracket is in dire need of activities and involvement, so any programs that are geared just for them become exciting and cool.”

During the more than 18 months the facility has been open, the center has grown exponentially. The class schedules have doubled since 2006, now offering 20 classes per week for children. The program has exceeded Bodyworks's monetary goals, too. Since July 2006, the center has brought in nearly $2.5 million, almost doubling what it made in the first seven months of the program. The staff set a first-month goal of $2,000 per month for the Swim! classes and have earned more than $5,000 in both April and May.

Bodyworks staff members will continue to experiment with different styles of classes to determine what the teens and tweens want and when they want it, Franks says. Staff members are also toying with the idea of providing music, food and guest speakers.

“[We're busier] on a more regular basis,” Franks says. “We're also busier on the weekends — much busier than an average facility. More than anything, we are constantly reminded that we are here to serve our members, in any capacity that we can. Whether it be by staying on our toes for the class schedules or by researching what the latest X-box games are, we do it because we love our families.”

Best Community-based or Nonmember Program

Bodyworks Family Sports Center
Lubbock, TX

The Party Zone

Give the folks at Bodyworks Family Sports Centers in Lubbock, TX, a child's favorite color, cartoon character or movie, and they'll make a stress-free, successful party for members and nonmembers alike.

As parents and their children become busier with work, school and other activities, the children's birthday party business has grown in recent years. Bodyworks decided to capitalize on that trend in January 2006 by creating the Party Zone to host its birthday party and special events program.

“We wanted to provide an environment where friends and family could come together not only to stay fit but also to have fun,” says Krista Burns, events coordinator for Bodyworks. “With the Family Sports Center, we knew we could offer something that had never been seen in our community for parties and special events. We went outside of the box to find a way to reach people in the community who would normally not come into a health club.”

Bodyworks staff works with parents and their children to specialize each party. Parties can be planned for birthdays, field trips, church or school lock-ins, teams, or family reunions. Several areas of the club are available for these events, including basketball courts, an interactive gaming area, a three-story maze, an indoor water park, a two-story climbing wall, a Junior Olympic-sized pool with a 30-foot water slide, a virtual reality sports simulator and trampoline basketball.

To make birthdays extra special, the club provides a Bodyworks T-shirt that can be colored and signed by party members for the birthday child, a build-and-stuff animal for the birthday child, specialized invitations for the party, and complete party setup and decorations. In the future, the Bodyworks staff hopes to offer cupcakes, goodie bags, thank-you notes, pizza and soft drinks as additional party touches. The Bodyworks Party Team does all the work for the children's parents, Burns says.

The Party Zone has paid off handsomely for the company. Bodyworks set a goal to host about 25 parties a week, with 10 to 20 participants each. That goal is met most weeks, and revenue has increased from $8,000 in April 2006 to more than $16,000 this past April.

Word of mouth has been the biggest marketing tool, Burns says, although local newspapers, magazines and television stations have also covered the club and its parties, promoting the program “to an extent we could have never imagined,” Burns says.

After each party, a staff member sends a thank-you note to the parents and offers all guests a free weekly family pass to the center.

Profit margins for the parties range from 67 percent to 86 percent, and the special events bring in an average of 15 to 20 new family memberships a month. That adds up to more than $30,000 each month — on top of the revenue from the events themselves.

Although Burns enjoys the large returns on investment, she likes the responses from the parents and children the best.

“The children have an absolute blast, and that's really all that is important,” she says. “Nothing puts a smile on a parent's face more than seeing pure joy in their child's face.”

Best New Member Integration Program

Cooper Aerobics Center at Craig Ranch
McKinney, TX

Member Round Up

At the Cooper Aerobics Center at Craig Ranch in McKinney, TX, new members don't just receive a tour of the facility. They get a feature-filled new member orientation program, including a $100 Cooper Aerobics Center cash card.

The program, Cooper Round Up, takes new members through a tour of the center's offerings — the Pilates studio, the spa, the group exercise room, the climbing wall, the café and more. Each new member receives a Cooper Round Up card that they take to each location and have signed once they've completed the activity. Once a new member completes six of the eight activities offered within 30 days (the activities range from a fitness assessment and personal training session to attending a monthly nutrition seminar or group exercise class), they receive a $100 gift card to use at Cooper.

“We wanted to give them an incentive, and a gift card was the most economical way to do it,” says Jason Barth, general manager at Cooper Aerobics Center at Craig Ranch. “One-hundred dollars is $100 to them, but to us, it's really $50 because there's profit in there.”

The cash card also helps offset the center's $195 initiation fee, which is higher than most of Cooper's competitors, Barth says. About 94 percent of new members go through the program, and about 85 percent complete their card.

Most new members purchase services that cost more than their $100 card provides. The value of exposing a member to additional services and having them actually use them makes the $50 insignificant, Barth says. In fact, since the program began in May, it has brought in an average of $230 per month per active member. That's $150 more than the industry standard.

All items on the Cooper Round Up card were chosen carefully to increase auxiliary item revenue, Barth says.

“We expose them to different areas they wouldn't try on their own,” he says. “Some are apprehensive about group exercise or leery about Pilates and the rock climbing wall. This eases some of that tension and makes them feel more comfortable trying new things.”

The program is marketed on a board located in a high-traffic area of the facility and through a folder detailing Cooper Round Up. Staff members also promote the program to prospective members. These efforts have increased Cooper's new membership by 56 percent per month, yielding additional revenue of $4,370 each month.

Barth recommends that operators at other facilities consider adding a similar new member integration program, although he cautions that operators must be committed to the program and customize it to their facility's membership and offerings.

“Our retention rate is 87 percent,” Barth says. “We're seeing people stick around because they've invested so much in the program that they don't want to leave it.”

Most new members in the program become overachievers, too, completing all eight items on heir checklists.

“They're so proud that they've done everything on it,” Barth says. “They look forward to getting the gift card and have a sense of pride that they completed it.”

To read more about the 2007 Best of the Best winners as well as past winners and for more information on applying for the 2008 Best of the Best competition, go to www.fitnessbusinesspro.com/bestofthebest.

Judges

  • Vernard Alsberry, Kids Health Club
  • Kelli Calabrese, Calabrese Consulting LLC
  • Casey Conrad, Healthy Inspirations
  • Dr. Larry Hensley, University of Northern Iowa
  • Julie Main, West Coast Athletic Clubs
  • Phil Wendel, Legacy Management
  • Karen Woodard, Premium Performance Training
  • Jim Worthington, Newtown Athletic Club
  • Editors of Club Industry's Fitness Business Pro