When the Claremont Club-renowned for its tennis programs-reassessed member’s needs, it learned fitness was more than a trend. For this property and its community, health and wellness are now a way of life.
It’s easy to see now why The Claremont Club—a multi-use athletic, wellness, aquatic, tennis and social facility located on 19 acres in Claremont, Calif.—has become a favorite workout spot among Southern Californians. But the club you’ll find today—comfortable, relaxed and filled with friendly staff—is quite different from how Claremont started life in 1973, with a clear focus on tennis that helped it thrive throughout that sport’s boom of the ‘70s.
|When Mike Alpert became Claremont’s new President and CEO, he made it his mission to redefine the club’s future and center its membership around fitness.|
As the 1980s ushered in fitness fanaticism, the club’s membership began to level off. And when the ‘90s arrived, America’s interest in tennis—and Claremont—had clearly waned.
But the club quickly expanded its focus to also embrace wellness and the new concerns about health and fitness that were sweeping the country. Over the next decade, Claremont embarked on three fitness-centric expansions to the property, and another dozen or so to its fitness-related programs. These efforts have reignited the spirit of the club and helped it post positive membership growth in 10 of the past twelve years.
Today, the ace up Claremont’s sleeve is undoubtedly fitness, with 60,000 sq. ft. showcasing the club’s penchant for helping every member of the family—no matter their athletic inclinations—live a more healthful life.
Club Name & Location: The Claremont Club, Claremont, Calif.
“Fitness drives this club,” says Mike Alpert, President and CEO. “Members—both prospective and current—come here expecting more than sweat, metal and mirrors.”
Fitness Dominates the Court
Tennis at Claremont is still impressive in scope and size. With 29 courts (22 of which are lighted), a vast array of programs ranging from beginner to advanced levels, and six full-time teaching professionals, the club’s legacy is heavily rooted in producing players who are mentally tough, with strokes grooved from hours of practice and match play.
But in 1997, when the club hired Alpert, a veteran fitness club manager, to inject new life into the membership, it was clear that tennis wasn’t going to be enough to keep the club afloat.
“We were in pretty bad financial shape,” he recalls. “We were losing more members than we were attracting and had come off two consecutive years of net losses. Our aged accounts payable was very large and eleven months old. Our aged accounts receivable was also very high. The property was in sad shape, and very little focus was on fitness.
“Moreover, it was obvious that after 24 years of operation, people knew we had 29 tennis courts,” Alpert adds. “What they didn’t know is what else we had to offer. Quite simply, they perceived us as an unaffordable facility that only catered to affluent, wealthy tennis players.”
|With dedicated fitness studios, the club provides a balance of preparatory, essential, intermediate, and advanced-level exercises.|
Seeing Claremont’s hidden potential, Alpert set out to drastically change the club’s M.O. First, he lowered initiation fees. Next, he evaluated the staff, making sure he had the right people in the right places. Finally, he set to work assessing the club’s programs and looking for ways to improve its list of amenities. (For full details of the business plan, click here)
“The fitness component was small and mediocre at best, but it was something members expressed interest in,” Alpert says. “However, there was no strong management, and instructors and personal trainers were sparse. Child care was another disaster.”
The first step toward surviving—and eventually thriving—was hiring Rose Graselli as Childcare Director and Denise Johnson as Wellness Director.
“When I came to Claremont, there was a great deal of member frustration, because we simply couldn’t accommodate their fitness needs,” says Johnson, who had previously worked with Alpert at Lakeshore Towers Sporting Club in Irvine, Calif. “We needed to expand our facilities and improve our capabilities.”
Nowhere to Roam
After two successful years of membership growth under Alpert, Claremont was officially busting at the seams. So, in 1999, the club doubled the size of its parking lot, built its day spa and salon, and remodeled its childcare area.
Growing at a quick clip, the club maintained its need for space. In 2004, it finished a 23,000-sq. ft. expansion that included a new weight room; pilates studio; yoga studio; spinning studio; remo deled locker rooms; expanded day spa and salon; new administrative and management offices; an expanded cardio room (with new equipment); new pro shop; a junior fitness room; new basketball court; and a 3,000-sq. ft. Physical Therapy, Rehabilitation and Sports Medicine center.
But it wasn’t long before even these additions still weren’t enough to keep up with the fast-building momentum for fitness at Claremont.
“This past year, we built our second pilates studio,” says Alpert. “We completely remodeled both the main and tennis locker rooms; put in new Olympic pool filters; expanded our Day Spa & Salon; built our Kinesis and Spinal Cord Injury room; purchased additional weight room and cardio equipment, and remodeled our Kids Court and Infant Care areas.”
No Standing Around
Needless to say, life at The Claremont Club has been anything but static.
|Instructors are highly qualified, with an average teaching experience of seven years.|
“When we finished the big expansion in 2004, members were equal parts excited and overwhelmed,” says Johnson. “The younger crowd was ready to try all of the new equipment, while the older demographic was a little more intimidated by the size of the facility and variety of new stuff. It was important for us, in those first few months, to make our staff available to help members.”
Johnson also created pocket-sized floor plans to help lost members find their way. “Because we had a small fitness center before, our two primary components were on opposite sides of the building,” she says. “If you don’t know where you’re going, it’s easy to get lost.” She jokes, in fact, that when hiring new staff or interns, “if they can find my office, they get the job!”
Being so spread out also creates staffing challenges. “I can’t be everywhere at once, so I rely heavily on my team members to operate their parts of the club effectively and efficiently,” Johnson says.
To keep everyone on the same page, she holds monthly meetings where her staff has the chance to review, plan and strategize while exercising the mental muscles responsible for creativity.
“Everyone is asked to make a brief presentation about his or her goals, ideas, and latest achievements,” says Johnson. “Then, as a group, we look for opportunities within the club or the community to further develop skills and interests.”
To help bring good ideas to life, Johnson encourages the fitness staff to create new member programs or earn more certifications that can be used in a new class, lecture or program at the club.
|Group exercise classes, led by Denise Johnson, Director of Wellness (left), and Shannon Malooly, Group Exercise Director (right), are extremely popular among members looking to get fit in a social setting.|
“The high point comes when one of these new ideas evolves into a popular event with the members,” she says.
Through this initiative, one trainer researched, developed and offered what became a sold-out wellness lecture on menopause that the club now plans to offer again in the spring. Another trainer developed a comprehensive bootcamp, while another earned his CrossFit certification. Their programs have also been added to the repertoire of more than 100 group fitness classes now offered at Claremont each week.
The hardest part about starting a new exercise routine is just that: starting. But at Claremont, thanks to Group Exercise Director Shannon Malooly, members are signing up by the dozen for Tai Chi, karate, pilates, spinning, and yoga classes.
“We offer over one hundred classes a week,” says Malooly, who started at Claremont during college, was hired as a trainer after graduating and promoted to Group Exercise Director after two years on the job. “My biggest impact has been in the number and variety of classes we offer to our members.”
All group exercise classes are included in the membership, and the staff strives to provide leadership, up-to-date quality instruction and high-energy motivation utilizing a variety of teaching methods.
“Anyone can walk in and get a great workout,” says Malooly, who works with instructors to ensure that each class caters to all levels. “The instructors offer alternate modifications during the classes, so that each person is challenged and engaged.”
When the club separated its fitness classes by skill level, Malooly originally found that “beginner” and “advanced” classes were empty, while “moderate” classes were filled to capacity. The same was true, she found, for classes designated for seniors.
“A lot of people didn’t know exactly how to classify themselves,” she says. “The seniors didn’t want to be called seniors, and even our most advanced members thought they weren’t qualified for ‘advanced’ classes. By taking away the classifications, classes are more evenly balanced and well-attended.”
|“Children want to work out more, simply because we make it fun to do so,” says Denise Johnson, Director of Wellness.|
Spinning is one of Claremont’s more popular offerings, with up to 18 classes per week that utilize five different class types with specific training goals: endurance, strength, interval, race day and recovery. “Our Studio (see photo, pg. 46) houses the best indoor cycling bikes available, with a total of 31 spinners fully equipped with cadence and heart rate computers,” adds Malooly.
Pilates is also quite popular with Claremont’s members—so much so that the club added another studio in 2007.
“We offer two fully equipped pilates studios with reformers, trapeze tables, barrels and split chairs,” says Malooly. “The repertoire consists of more than 500 systematic mat- and equipment-based mind/body exercises. There’s a balance of preparatory, essential, intermediate, and advanced-level exercises, to deliver uniquely effective workout formats.”
Private, semi-private and group training is available through the club’s certified pilates instructors. In addition to providing a basic knowledge of functional anatomy and three-plus years of movement teaching, the intensive certification program includes up to 200 hours of classroom instruction and supervised teaching, and over 200 hours of observation and physical practice.
“It’s rigorous,” says Malooly of the training regimen required for certfication. “But it’s worth it.”
Starting Them Young
Claremont now has much to offer to all of its membership, be it a challenging match on the court, a couple-dozen laps in the pool, or a visit to its extensive spa and salon complex. But for younger members who may not quite get the allure of group aerobics or a deep-tissue massage, the club’s junior programs have been designed to offer something a little more engaging.
With three separate age-specific childcare areas geared for kids from six weeks to 13 years, the facility stretches well beyond the playground concept. Claremont offers infant care for six-week to 24-month-old members. (It costs a nominal hourly fee, but allows little ones to have their own area to play, learn, and explore.) Then, for children 24 months to seven years of age, there is KidsCourt, which is included in the family membership.
“A core staff of highly qualified individuals, all certified in adult/child/infant first aid and CPR, oversee the activities in the childcare areas,” says Johnson. “The childcare programs have substantially helped bring more members into the club. What we’ve seen is that parents are more apt to choose this membership [over a gym membership] because there is something engaging for the kids.”
For juniors age eight to 13, The InZone, a dedicated junior fitness facility, has ping pong, foosball and video games. Juniors may also play a variety of in-house sports and utilize the club’s specialized junior fitness room.
|Claremont has teamed with the medical community to offer preventative wellness programs.|
“We have 3,500 memberships, but we have more than 10,000 members, which means a high percentage of the people who use the club are under the age of 13,” Johnson notes. “The junior fitness room combines sports and games with health and wellness.”
The room is equipped with a nine-piece circuit of equipment, as well as cardiovascular stations. “This system tackles obesity head-on, with consideration for safety at the forefront,” Johnson says.
Children who are 12 and 13 years old may also participate in any of the group exercise classes (except spinning) when accompanied by a parent. They must remain within arm’s reach of a parent at all times, though. Young adults 14 years and older may attend all classes, including spinning, independently.
Looking outside the box for ways to further its wellness mission, Claremont partnered with Pomona Valley Hospital Medical Center in a three-phase vision for the community in 2005.
“We have formed strong strategic alliances with Pomona Valley Hospital Medical Center, Casa Colina Acute Rehabilitation Hospital, and many key doctors and clinicians in our area,” Alpert explains. “We offer many wellness programs throughout the year to members and non-members within our communities.”
Creating a sort of wellness campus, the hospital leases a 3,000-sq.-ft. rehab and physical therapy center from the club and offers services in the areas of physical therapy, rehabilitation, and sports medicine. Meanwhile, The Claremont Club offers support groups on topics including brain injuries,
Parkinson’s disease, and menopause.
“This partnership has brought a number of new members in to see what the club has to offer,” Alpert says. Moreover, providing these services positions the club as a good corporate citizen, with cutting-edge programs that make it the facility of choice for the community.
Partnering with the club has been equally beneficial for the hospital, Alpert adds, noting that an increasing number of businesses, cities and schools now look to hospitals to lead the charge towards wellness.
The club is also working with the Claremont Unified School District, to offer programs that Alpert believes are equally cutting-edge in providing additional health and wellness opportunities to children and young people.
“One thing that differentiates clubs like ours from others is the education and socialization that takes place here,” Alpert says. “Members want to learn how to live healthy lives, but they also want to be a part of a healthy club.
“And while future trends are hard to predict,” he adds, “providing a cost-effective place that promotes healthy, independent living and offers quality time with family and friends is at the core of Claremont’s future.”
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