Eau Claire, Wi — Unity Health & Fitness, formerly known as Eau Claire Athletic Club, closed its doors last month after 22 years of operation in Eau Claire, WI. Owner Jeff Sauter closed the club for financial reasons.

“We found ourselves doing more for less of a return,” Sauter says.

After opening as the Eau Claire Racquetball and Fitness Center in 1981, the club closed after four years and sat empty for a year before Sauter and his wife, Donna, took over the club in February 1986.

The Sauters changed the name of the club to Unity Health & Fitness in February 2006 and changed its business model from an athletic club to one that focused on wellness. The goal was to attract the non-traditional exercise market, and initially, that market responded, Sauter says. But what hurt the club was the lack of a strong marketing plan, he says.

The cost of utilities also became a burden. Sauter says that utilities doubled from more than $40,000 in 2003 to more than $80,000 in 2006.

Sauter notified the 1,100 members in August that the club was up for sale and that it might close. Membership opportunities for remaining members were arranged at another local health club as well as the local YMCA, says Sauter, who is now a member of both.

Sauter will try to sell his wellness program to other health clubs but has no plans to own a club again.

“Clubs are in a perfect position to be delivery vehicles for a health care solution,” Sauter says. “But we have to get people active.”