LOGAN, Utah - Long a giant in the home fitness market, ICON Health & Fitness has now created a comprehensive commercial division with the acquisition of Ground Zero, a Colorado Springs, Colo.-based manufacturer of strength equipment. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

A relatively young company, Ground Zero gained notice with the introduction of its Free Motion machines: strength equipment that provides a user-defined path of motion (as opposed to a fixed line of motion). Now, the company forms the cornerstone of ICON's commercial division, which includes the commercial cardio equipment that ICON introduced under its NordicTrack name.

Roy Simonson and Jeff Leeson continue to head Ground Zero, now known as Ground Zero Design Corporation, a wholly owned subsidiary of ICON. Simonson carries the title of CEO and focuses on product development and strategic planning, while Leeson, president/COO, concentrates on running day-to-day operations. Both Simonson and Leeson now report to Gary Stevenson, ICON's president and COO.

"Roy and Jeff have an unbelievable heritage," said Colleen Logan, ICON's director of marketing. "They spent a good chunk of their entire adult careers at Cybex, which obviously has name recognition and a premium quality associated with it. So they have a wealth of knowledge in the commercial fitness industry that - because we have spent our lives dedicated to the home industry - we just didn't have."

In addition to bringing a commercial strength line and knowledge of the commercial fitness industry, Ground Zero provides ICON with an experienced sales force and an established business platform. "We can hit the ground running with any products they may have," Leeson said.

Ground Zero also gains from the acquisition, according to Logan. When Ground Zero was an independent company, it designed and assembled its own products, but had to rely on outside manufacturers for parts. ICON, on the other hand, makes a million treadmills a year, so it's no stranger to manufacturing. And as a company with ISO 9000 certification (an international standard for manufacturing quality) and a million square feet of manufacturing space, ICON gives Ground Zero production expertise and pricing leverage.

ICON also delivers impressive financial support. The company hit $733 million in wholesale sales in fiscal 2000.

"We have the financial foundation to maintain our commitment to this commercial fitness launch," Logan said. "And with the acquisition of Ground Zero, we have some terrific experts in Jeff and Roy to guide us."


Growth at Polar Continues

WOODBURY, N.Y. - Polar Electro has acquired HealthFirst Corp. (Albuquerque, N.M.), a leading developer of complete software and Web-based products used in health and fitness assessment, risk appraisal and education, and nutritional programming. The financial arrangements were not disclosed.

The acquisition provides Polar, on a worldwide basis, with a dedicated development group that will enhance existing products from both companies and develop products for the electronic future. HealthFirst will operate as Polar's research and development division for software and Web-based products.

Polar Electro and HealthFirst have had a strong working relationship since 1995, when HealthFirst started incorporating Polar's heart rate monitoring technology into its products. And in March 2000, Polar announced a collaborative effort with HealthFirst directed at the education market.

Both companies see the natural cross-marketing of their products to be a major strength of the merger. The extensive marketing reach of Polar's three business-to-business divisions - education, health club and medical - will enable more wellness-related professions to take advantage of HealthFirst products.


Industry News

- NuStep (Ann Arbor, Mich.) has a new Web site (www.nustep.com). The site showcases, in an interactive environment, the NuStep TRS 4000, which was specifically designed to accommodate users of all ages and abilities.

- FitLinxx (Stamford, Conn.) announced the second round of fitness equipment to pass its FitLinxx Certified program, an industry-wide certification process that assures a tested, integrated solution for customers who plan to connect fitness equipment to FitLinxx systems. The most recent products to complete the certification process are: Body Masters' selectorized strength line; Cybex VR, VR2 and Galileo strength lines; Life Fitness CT9500HR Total Body Cross Trainer and Life Strength Pro Series strength line; Nautilus 2ST strength line; Paramount A.R.T. strength line; and Precor C956 and C954 treadmills.

- Harbinger (Napa, Calif.) has launched an interactive sport-specific SportStretch CD-ROM that demonstrates why and how stretching can enhance sport performance. Harbinger's proprietary Sport-Stretch Programs are custom-designed, sport-specific stretch routines for golf, tennis, running and fitness.

- Sports Tech, Fitness Plus and Power Strength have relocated to a larger facility located at 1723 S. Boyd, Santa Ana, CA 92705. The move is less than five miles from their old location, but will go a long way toward making their operation more efficient.

- The NCAA recently announced that Tanita Corp. (Arlington Heights, Ill.) will be the official supplier for NCAA Wrestling Championships. Tanita will provide the NCAA with digital scales to help the association accurately monitor wrestling weigh-ins and ensure student athletes' safety at competitions.

- Action Floor Systems LLC (Mercer, Wis.) has finished the redesign of its Web site. The Web site is now available at www.actionfloors.com.