Snowstorms Affect East Coast Fitness Facilities

Snowstorms Affect East Coast Fitness Facilities

NEWTOWN, PA -- For 31 years, the Newtown Athletic Club in Newtown, PA, has not closed for a single day. And even after heavy snowstorms in recent days, that streak is still intact.

Here are a couple of reasons why: Some staff members at the Newtown Athletic Club (NAC)—45 minutes outside of Philadelphia—have stayed overnight at the club at least twice in the past week to remove snow from the club’s parking lot and walkways. Also, the club owns its own snow removal equipment, which means that beyond the $6,000 that owner Jim Worthington spent on the plow five or six years ago, he has spent just $1,000 during this snowstorm to keep his parking lot clear. That compares to the $12,000 to $14,000 that he might have spent to hire a snow removal company.

Although NAC was able to stay open, other club operators weren’t as lucky. The nine Merritt Athletic Clubs in the Baltimore area were closed on Saturday and Sunday during the blizzard, then again Wednesday and today as more snow fell, according to Terry Dezzutti, chief operating officer. Baltimore was hit with a total of 35 inches of snow, according to, and the governor of Maryland asked everyone to stay off the roads. The clubs will re-open Friday at 5 a.m.

“We’re closed now more to make sure the integrity of the roofs are OK,” Dezzutti says, adding that the engineers determined that all the roofs have maintained their structural integrity despite the wet snow. “At one club where we were thinking there might be an issue, we had people in a 90-foot bucket truck cleaning off the roofs. The bucket was swinging in the wind while they were trying to rake the roof.”

Merritt has lost about the equivalent of a week of business, Dezzutti says.

“Can you make it up? I’m not sure if you can,” Dezzutti says. “But it could have been much worse if you lost a roof or if it happened when you were open.”

On Valentine’s Day, the Northwest Sport & Health club in Washington, DC, was open to members and nonmembers free of charge. The club also offered free group exercise classes that included yoga, Pilates and Zumba.

Even though NAC was able to remain open, the high-end, 110,000-square-foot club also has taken a financial hit in areas such as group exercise, personal training, the salon and the spa. During last Saturday’s snowstorm, between 300 and 400 members came into the club. The $94-a-month club usually has about 2,500 people walk through the doors, Worthington says.

The good news is that the club is available for anyone wanting to get out of the house or grab a hot shower. The guest fee is $15 a day. That feature alone has created a handful of memberships for the club.

“If they get out, this is one of the places they go to,” Worthington says.

Leslie Shinners, general manager of the Freedom Aquatic and Fitness Center, Manassas, VA, agrees. She says her facility, which is a multi-use center operated by George Mason University, remained open even though the university cancelled classes Feb. 5 and then again Feb. 8-11. The facility had the same number of student check-ins on those days as they do on days when the university isn’t closed.

“I think because we’re a haven for those who can get out, we’re doing as well as usual on the days that we are open,” Shinners says.

The center was operating with a reduced staff, however. She says their first priority on snow days is to get basic, self-directed activities up and running, then they add services such as group fitness classes and child care as a second priority if instructors and employees can make it in.

Many clubs in New York City, however, aren’t operating with reduced staff because of the snowstorm. At Chelsea Piers, it is business as usual despite the 10 inches of snow the city received Wednesday, according to Jenna Weinerman, marketing and public relations coordinator for Chelsea Piers.

“We’re in Manhattan, so the subway is going—and the buses,” she says.

Today, all the snow has been plowed from the streets and the sidewalks are just slushy in some spots, she says.

“Everything runs in the snow and rain, so we didn’t see an increase or decrease in the number of members coming in,” Weinerman says, adding that all staff also made it in.

The 10 Crunch clubs in New York also remained open despite the snow, but usage was down 20 percent Wednesday compared to the previous Wednesday, according to Keith Worts, chief operating officer for Crunch. However, thanks to an e-blast sent out to prospects on Wednesday morning, Crunch sold 40 percent more memberships that day than it did the on the previous Wednesday.

Most New Yorkers usually walk, take a cab or ride the subway to get to where they’re going, Worts points out, so driving through the snow to get to Crunch clubs wasn’t much of a factor.

“Twelve inches or 15 inches [of snow] isn’t going to affect them too much,” Worts says.

The Dedham Health and Athletic Complex in Dedham, MA, also has not been affected much by the snow. This year’s winter, according Dedham owner Lloyd Gainsboro, is actually better than last year, which included several smaller storms every three or four days.

“We really haven’t had any bad weather that hurt us,” Gainsboro says.

On Wednesday, the Princeton University campus in Princeton, NJ, was closed except for the Stephens Fitness Center and the university’s critical and essential employees, according to Matt Brzycki, assistant director of campus recreation, fitness.

“We were able to stay open with our normal hours of operation,” Brzycki said in an e-mail. “The general feeling is that, if at all possible and safety permitting, to open Dillon Gym (the location of the Stephens Fitness Center) for the students.”

The Dillon Gym and the fitness center operated with a slightly reduced staff.

“In situations like this, we try to use employees who live within walking distance,” he says. Last Wednesday, the fitness center had 1,368 usages but during the snowstorm Wednesday, it had 589 usages.

Stephanie Bloyd, senior associate editor, contributed to this story.

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