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Savvy health club owners and managers are looking beyond the big-ticket expense items to discover ways to trim expenses.
Pear saved money by buying servers and hosting Internet services (e-mail, Web hosting) in-house rather than outsourcing. This alone, he says, saves his club an estimated $5,000 to $10,000 per year.
However, larger companies may find even more savings. 24 Hour Fitness, San Ramon, CA, migrated to a converged data and voice VOIP service for its more than 400 locations and worked with Ecova, an energy and sustainability management company, to audit and prioritize lines. Ecova, Spokane, WA, audited more than 5,000 lines for 24 Hour and placed information about those lines into a common system to simplify tracking and maintenance. The result was disconnection of more than 2,500 lines no longer needed by the company and cancellation of erroneous carrier fees on more than 1,600 lines, which saved 24 Hour $1.5 million annually. In all, 24 Hour has saved $4.5 million from the audit, according to Ecova.
Doing preventative maintenance can be another cost saver, Pear says, noting that early in the year he cleaned the condensers on his rooftop heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) units himself.
"I did not have to call for repair on them all year long," he says. "Just taking care of this equipment is important. Otherwise, you are just flushing money away."
Even bigger savings may be had on club energy bills. By their very nature, clubs are usually open long hours and have significant demands for cooling and heating—not only space heating but heating water for pools, spas, showers and perhaps food preparation. That said, energy auditing firms say perhaps the first place to look for energy savings at a club is in lighting. Clubs can cut electricity costs by adding natural light, moving to more efficient, energy-saving fixtures as well as by introducing motion sensors and lighting controls.
"We find a lot of clubs still have the lighting the building came with, sometimes two generations behind where they should be," says Chip Goudreau, director of business development for Marlborough, MA-based Guardian Energy Management Solutions, a company that has identified fitness clubs as a strong market for energy-saving upgrades.
"You might have old lights high above a gymnasium floor that are very inefficient," Goudreau continues. "Clubs should upgrade sensors and controls. I see gymnasiums with rooms that don't get used except maybe early in the day and then again at the end of the day or night, and still the lights are on all day. When no one is in that room for more than 15 minutes, turn the lights off."