Life Time, a chain of health clubs in the United States and Canada, just opened a brand new location in New York’s Flatiron District. It’s an anxious time for opening, or reopening, a business of any kind right now—but especially for fitness centers as some pandemic-imposed shutdown orders are still in place.
However, New York—once the U.S. epicenter for COVID-19 cases just one year ago—has gradually been lifting restrictions this spring. Gyms and fitness centers were opened for individual exercise first, and limited-sized classes followed in March. With the announcement that vaccine availability would be opened to everyone over the age of 16 by April 5, it’s possible that most—if not all—orders on fitness establishments could be lifted within the next few months, which would be welcome news for business owners.
Opened in December 2020 after an extensive remodeling (it is the first of four former New York Health and Racquet clubs being repurposed), construction began well before the pandemic, with the intent to keep as much of the structure of the location as possible given its history.
“We identified ways to creatively use the spaces and surfaces to design with our sophisticated Life Time brand and experience top of mind, radiating wellness and luxury,” says Ryan Brister, senior area director at Life Time. “The team spent a great deal of time and effort into the grand circular stairway, creating an outstanding architectural structure that is the centerpiece of the health club.”
Primed to be a cutting edge, ultra-luxe health and fitness destination, the 23rd Street location features an expansive fitness floor outfitted with the latest state-of-the-art equipment, including more than 110 new cardio and strength machines from Technogym.
From the granite slab stairs, custom curved glass railing, and walnut stringers, the interior is a master work, Brister describes. The space features all brand new LED lighting; a new heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) system; and updated audio and video technologies throughout club as well to accommodate the new live-streaming of classes to both club and digital members in the United States and Canada.
“Compared to pre-pandemic, the real game changer has been the virtual, omni-channel direction that we are taking as a company,” Brister says. “Our Life Time Digital platform has given us a new way to reach our current and prospective members virtually, from anywhere. The ability to take a fitness class in the method of your choice—whether it be in the comfort of your own home, in one of our indoor group classes, or through our outdoor programming— has made health and wellness more accessible for all.”
The new Life Time fitness center boasts a cedarwood sauna with Himalayan salt wall lamps, spacious dressing rooms, indoor salt water lap pool, teakwood showers, radiant heat panels in the yoga studio, and more.
However, as exciting as the vaccine rollout might be for New Yorkers, the pandemic is not over by any stretch of the imagination. Time Life has implemented a number of precautions to keep patrons safe, including instituting touchless check-ins, temperature screenings, hospital-grade air filtration, online class reservations as well as virtual classes, clearly-marked social distancing measures, and extensive deep cleaning protocols.
“As with any transition, our members and team members had questions around the changes—from required reservations and our studio concierge who sets up and takes down each members station in group fitness, yoga and cycle classes, smaller class sizes, use of larger spaces (gymnasium vs. smaller studios) and enhanced cleaning protocols—to name a few,” Brister says. “From the initial launch, we have seen a consistent week-over-week and month-over-month increase in the number of classes and overall participation. We have spaced out our class times while also allocating additional payroll to ensure cleaning of equipment and a complete reset of the studio spaces are happening in between class times.”
Time Life says it has been seeing and and continues to expect a rapid acceleration of returning members and new subscribers throughout the year. Lap swimming—in which swimmers don’t have to wear masks and social distanced with one swimmer per lane—has increased in popularity especially, Brister notes, resulting in a lap-lane reservation system in many of the New York locations.
“Our members are quickly adapting and coming back to be served throughout our clubs, including our kids programming,” he says. “Given our ample spaces throughout the various areas in our clubs, members can very safely socially-distance in any activity—personal workouts on the fitness floor, individual cardio workouts, etcetera.”
From temperature checks to social distancing machines, there are so many precautions gyms and fitness centers have taken in the last year to keep patrons safe. While some might fade away after 2021, the transition to and popularity of at-home workouts are here to stay.
“When looking at new precautions we have introduced into our healthy clubs over the past year, the implementation of enhanced cleaning protocols, requiring reservations for group fitness classes, applying a new group fitness class set up and breakdown process, and launching our digital, livestream platform are the mainstays,” Brister says. “We anticipate that the rest will fade based on restrictions and member feedback.”
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