Money Makers: This year's Top 100 clubs list shows that despite economic conditions, some of the biggest club companies in the United States are still adding to their bottom line.
Skeptics might believe that few clubs made any money last year. From the looks of this year's annual Top 100 clubs list, which ranks clubs by 2008 revenue, plenty of health club companies did make money, either through actual club growth, non-dues revenue growth or cost-cutting.
As the International Health, Racquet and Sportsclub Association's quarterly indices reported, most club companies continued to perform well last year — at least until the fourth quarter. That means that the real effect of the recession may be more noticeable in next year's list than this year's list.
Eight clubs on last year's Top 100 clubs list reported a decrease in 2007 revenue from 2006 revenue. On this year's list, 16 clubs reported a decrease in 2008 revenue from 2007. And the decreases on last year's list typically hovered around 2 percent, with the largest decrease at 8 percent. On this year's list, many of the decreases ranged from 1 percent to 16 percent. Last year, only two club companies reported a flat year, while this year, 11 club companies reported a flat year.
This year's Top 100 clubs plan to open or acquire fewer clubs in 2009 compared to last year. Last year, the companies on the list indicated they would open or acquire 869 clubs in 2008 (207 clubs if you don't count the franchisors). This year, the listed clubs indicate they'll open 842 clubs (127 clubs if you don't count franchisors).
Despite the changes reflected in the list, one thing stayed the same: the No. 1 club company remained 24 Hour Fitness, San Ramon, CA. The company has become shy about reporting its revenue in the last two years, but Carl Liebert, CEO for 24 Hour, confirmed that the company's 2008 revenue is near $1.352 billion.
Club Corp., Dallas, TX, also remained at No. 2 with an estimate of $934.6 million. Club Corp.'s numbers are always difficult to pin down because the company owns a variety of facilities, such as golf clubs, country clubs, hotels and resorts that may offer a fitness component as well as fitness centers.
No. 3 Life Time Fitness, Chanhassen, MN, and No. 5 Town Sports International (TSI), New York, both public companies, have stated a slowdown in new clubs for this year. Life Time is opening just three clubs (down from 11 in 2008) and TSI is opening four clubs (down from nine in 2008).
Bally Total Fitness, Chicago, (No. 4) has closed 47 clubs since December and recently indicated just one new club for this year. So, for next year, Bally's 2009 revenue should be lower, probably dropping its placement on the list.
Capital Fitness (XSport Fitness), Big Rock, IL, jumped ahead of Millennium Partners Sports Club Management, Boston (No. 7), and Western Athletic Clubs, San Francisco (No. 9), to claim the No. 6 spot. It had been No. 10 last year. Also jumping up on the list was Lifestyle Family Fitness, St. Petersburg, FL (No. 8) and Planet Fitness, Dover, NH (No. 10), which cracks the top 10 for the first time.
This year, we welcome a few new companies to the list. Lucille Roberts Health Club (No. 32), ClubSport of San Ramon (No. 55), Salutary SportsClubs (No. 77) and Cascade Athletic Club (No. 94) had been on our missing list for many years, but all turned in their data this year and are included. However, we moved Peak Fitness, Charlotte, NC, to our missing list as its recent problems made it difficult to get proper data from the company or to estimate its revenue. In addition, we added Franco's Athletic Club, Mandeville, LA, to our missing list because we were not able to get data from the company for the second year in a row.
The full Top 100 list appears on the following pages.
Special thanks: The staff would like to thank Rick Caro, president of Management Vision, New York, for his assistance on the Top 100 clubs list. He reviewed the list, helped call club owners to submit their forms and guided the process. He also was consulted on several of the revenue estimations for companies that did not submit their Top 100 forms.
Some club owners prefer to keep their revenue private or do not respond to our requests for their financial information. Therefore, each year, our list leaves off club companies that probably should be included. This year's list of missing companies includes: