Behind the Scenes

Showtime in Orlando for Athletic Business 2009

I enjoyed a whirlwind tour of the Athletic Business Conference and Expo last week in Orlando. There were some neat new product announcements and a great group of instructors assembled to address the attendees from the military fitness, nonprofit facilities, university fitness, and parks and rec sectors.

The first seminar I attended was about managing rec centers in a down economy. It was taught by Ken Ballard and Jeff King, principals of Ballard King & Associates, Highlands Ranch, CO. They offered several suggestions for controlling costs and streamlining facility operating systems. In addition, they recommended forming partnerships with health care organizations and community sports leagues to boost revenue.

Then I checked out a session called "Everything You Know About Running a Health Club is Wrong." (How could you pass up a class with a title like that?!) Barry Klein and Rob Bishop, owners of Elevations Health Clubs in Scotrun, PA, took shots at some widely held "myths" of health club management, such as acquiring a new customer is five times more expensive than keeping one. Their thought was that every dollar you spend actually is a retention dollar and that club owners need to fully understand the costs of retention. The main premise of the seminar was that general advice should be taken with a grain of salt because it won't be targeted to the needs of an individual facility.

Author Mitch Albom gave the keynote address that included the backstory of his new book, "Have a Little Faith." The story began when his childhood rabbi asked him to give the eulogy at his funeral. It set Albom on an eight-year journey into spirituality that included many interesting people and observations.

On the trade show floor, I saw the debut of new inclusive fitness equipment from Technogym. The company designed the equipment with seats and parts that flip to the side so it's accessible to people with disabilities, while still functional for people without them. The intent was to include fitness equipment for all members on the gym floor, rather than segregating people with disabilities into separate rooms.

I also checked out an interesting new treadmill from Thorotread. The company is introducing a treadmill that lets users do strength training while walking. Users can walk forward and backward, as well as push and pull weight to burn calories quicker. Talk about multitasking!

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