Get Jacked

NYSC Renovating Gyms to Keep Up with Niche Industry

Town Sports International-owned New York Sports Clubs is in the process of renovating its existing city locations by removing bulky weight-lifting equipment and adding CrossFit-like training areas – a move that reflects its struggle to compete with the insurgence of a niche fitness industry.

nysc NYSC Renovating Gyms to Keep Up with Niche Industry Crain’s reported that so far 22 of the chain’s 39 Manhattan locations have been renovated with “Ultimate Fitness Experience Zones,” which range in size between 600 and 1,000 square feet and include turf, weight sleds, a variety of ropes and kettle bells.

“We felt for the first time in many years that our clubs were not laid out in a way to make it easy for our trainers to deliver these types of programs,” Robert Giardina, the 38-year-old CEO of Town Sports, told the publication. “We thought, ‘Let’s put something in there that represents cross-training – that’s what the big buzz is.'”

The company is investing $25,000 per location for the upgrades, with $3 million in total budgeted – a drop in the bucket compared with the $300 million of debt it accumulated over the past several years after a struggle to compete with niche gyms like CrossFit (which opened its first location in New York City six years ago and grew to 26 facilities, and counting) and spin studios Flywheel Sports and SoulCycle.

Sales are healthy across the industry, however, with plenty of room for the young and the old, experts said.

“New and mature clubs can coexist and deliver the support, services and value that consumers crave,” said Jay Ablondi, executive vice president of global products for IHRSA, in a recent statement.

NYSC is also rolling out more paid classes to nonmembers, and a new software system for online bookings.  The Experience Zones will be incorporated into Town Sports’ other brands, like Boston Sports Clubs, as well.  Mr. Giardina expects that 120 of his 160 Northeast outposts will be updated by year-end.

Follow Al Barbarino on Twitter or via RSS. abarbarino@observer.com