We have all heard about the economic rebound in America, but perhaps we are starting to see tangible evidence to support those theories. That is if you can count energy and excitement from within the industry as tangible evidence.

“The Club industry team is always working to find new ideas and innovations to make the event more appealing and relevant to the commercial fitness community. Focusing on new products in the marketplace and providing added exposure for companies introducing them helped to facilitate increased activity on the exhibit floor,” says Herb Greenebaum marketing manager for the Club Industry Show. “We are also pleased at the highly positive reaction to the topical keynote address on the obesity crisis and the warm reception of the audience to the recognition given to Joe Weider by Club Industry magazine. As always, Club Industry successfully united every segment of the business”

With an estimated 7,500 attendees and exhibitors heading to Chicago for Club Industry 2003, according to show officials, there was a real buzz on the floor of the McCormick Center.

“My facility is on the West Coast, so I usually attend events in that region. This year, I decided to check out Club Industry,” says Robert McLennan, owner of What A Racquet! Headquartered in Daly City, CA. “I am extremely impressed at the depth and breadth of the information program, which along with the new products here are creating a genuine sense of excitement in the exhibit hall.”

The excitement could be felt from the standing-room-only crowd that attended the Keynote Address to the show floor packed with new products.

Kicking off the show was the Keynote Address delivered from Kelley Brownell, Ph. D. highlighting the incredible—as gasps from the audience attested—state of obesity in this country. Immediately following the Keynote Session, Lifetime Achievement Award winner, Joe Weider was met with a well-deserved standing ovation from the 200-plus people in attendance.

Beyond the Keynote Address, the more than 75 seminars were heavily attended.

Several seminars focused on the staff issues. In the seminar, Hiring, Motivating and Evaluating Group Exercise Instructors, Angela Broderick, president of Fit Careers, talked about ways to keep good instructors around by positioning the club as a fair employer and a fun place to teach. In Innovative Strategies to Compensate and Motivate Your Staff, Tony deLeede, managing director of First Fitness Australia, talked about handing more control to the staff in each department so that they feel ownership of their department.

On the trade show floor attendees were met with several new products from companies both big and small.

Perhaps the hottest item at the show was The Trixter X-Bike from Matrix. The Trixter X-Bike caused quite a stir at the show being touted as taking group cycling to a whole new level. The sleek, copper-colored X-Bike provides a total body cardiovascular and muscular workout for the lower and the upper body, according to the company. The unique design offers a patent-pending side-to-side X-Bars to give users that mountain bike experience with a mountain bike indoor class to go along for the ride.

Nautilus introduced a StairMaster-branded club elliptical and StairMaster ClubTrack treadmills. The ellipticals reportedly have a movement that mimics the natural movemnt when walking or jogging.

SciFit, meanwhile, introduced the RST7000 Total Body Recumbent Stepper. The company says its ISO –Strength programming on the RST7000 allows users to get a total body cardio and strength workout on one piece of equipment.

All work and no fun can make cardio very, very dull. To help alleviate that problem, Life Fitness is the latest to take entertainment internal with the launch of an integrated LCD console for its Life Fitness’ treadmills, Lifecycles and stairclimbers and add-on LCD entertainment consoles that can be retrofitted to the same equipment and ellipticals.

Meanwhile, traditional entertainment companies aren’t resting on their laurels as BroadcastVision demonstrated its Orbit controller and receiver while CardioVision demonstrated its Personal Viewing Screens.

Not to be outdone by mere sight, Technogym has decided to entertain users entirely. With its new Excite cardiovascular line developed with the innovative Multisensorial Design the treadmill combats the boredom of working out through emotions by stimulating the five senses.

On the strength side of things, there were plenty of happenings there as well.

FreeMotion Fitness was among those creating a buzz with the latest additions to the EPIC Strength Selectorized Line of strength equipment featuring ergonomic design and exclusive patent-pending technologies: LMT (Lateral Movement Technology) and CAM2.

Meanwhile, Life Fitness and Nautilus also added and updated their strength lines, The Signature and Pro2 Series’ and Steel respectively.

Life Fitness added four new units to its Siganature Series, brining the line’s total to 17. As for the Pro2 series the company added five new pieces to the line, including a seated leg curl and assisted dip/chin.

Clubs with limited space and smaller budgets can look to the Nautilus for its Steel line of selectorized strength equipment. The machines are compact and offer user-friendly features like water bottle holder, contoured pads and instructional placards to define exercises and muscle group that are worked.

“We have specific needs for both cardio and strength equipment,” says Kevin McCauley, Co-Owner of the St. Louis, MO-based The Workout Co. “Visiting Club Industry and seeing the latest advances helps me to determine the right products, services and programs for my facility and my clientele.”

Regardless of the needs—be it equipment or education—Club Industry 2003 turned out to, perhaps, be the turning point in the industry as it makes its way out of the recession.