Our exclusive Top 100 ranking recognizes the monumental achievements of America's largest clubs.

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Understanding the Top 100.

Welcome once again to Club Industry's Top 100, our annual listing of the largest clubs and chains in the country.

This listing serves as a benchmark, not as a hard-and-fast ranking. Participation is voluntary. While we do everything possible to ensure accuracy, we ultimately depend upon the honesty of the clubs and chains that chose to share their 2000 corporate revenue — the figure that we use to determine each club's place on the list.

Since few clubs are publicly held, we can't always access the data necessary to check questionable claims. That's why Rick Caro (chairman of Spectrum Clubs, president of Management Vision and a member of the Club Industry editorial advisory board) reviews the Top 100 prior to publication. He searches the list for omissions or errors, and we follow up on his questions.

In addition to verifying the information from participating clubs, we try to get information from non-participating clubs. Some clubs prefer privacy, and we can't always coerce them to reveal their revenue. This year, more than 20 clubs and chains declined to take part. While we respect their wishes, we know that the Top 100 isn't complete without them.

In Deserving Recognition, we acknowledge non-participating clubs that clearly belong on the Top 100. With the help of Rick Caro, we were able to estimate their corporate revenue. These estimations are rough; we report them here in order to give an idea of where these clubs belong on the Top 100.

The clubs listed in Deserving Recognition aren't the only companies missing from the Top 100 listing. The industry's major licensors/franchisors are also absent.

Last year, we began listing licensors/franchisors separately by number of locations, a practice we continue this year. Here's why. Some licensors/franchisors decline to share revenue. Others insist on adding the revenue of individual licensees/franchisees to corporate revenue, when, in fact, only the appropriate licensing/franchising fees should be included. Therefore, to be fair, we opt to list licensors/franchisors by total locations.

We believe that listing licensors/franchisors in this manner will still give readers an idea of how large these companies are in relation to each other. However, it should be noted that, like revenue, the number of licensed, franchised and owned locations is self-reported. Therefore, the figures are still subject to scrutiny.

In addition to licensors/franchisors, long-time Top 100 followers may notice some familiar names missing from the ranking. The consolidation activity of 1999 continued into 2000, and a few Top 100 staples got bought up last year. In 2000, Bally Total Fitness acquired Nautilus Plus of Oregon (Gold's Gym), Town Sports International (TSI) bought Health Development Corp. (HDC), L.A. Fitness purchased Australian Body Works, and Wellbridge bought the Bel Air Athletic Club. These acquired companies are gone from our list; however, they are reflected in the revenue reported by the buyers that appear on the Top 100.

It seems unlikely that consolidation will erase that many names from the 2002 Top 100. Unlike 1999 and 2000, 2001 has been quiet as far as acquisitions are concerned. Greenfield activity has also been light. Are these signs of an economic slowdown?