Fitness centers and the search for more space

When the average guest is on the road, he or she is not going to the hotel gym to necessarily bulk up. Instead, guests are focused on keeping up with the physical routine they follow when at home, which for many travelers involves more than just lifting weights, and often involves classes such as yoga and Pilates.

According to Christine Shanahan, managing director of design for architecture, design and construction consulting firm Jonathan Nehmer + Associates, hotels are catering to these needs by introducing more and more empty or open space in their fitness centers, and sometimes even an adjacent classroom space if possible. Shanahan said that hotels understand that some guests are choosing brands based on fitness facilities, and are upping their ante on fitness design.

Everything from the design of the flooring and walls, to the scents and music of fitness centers, can help contribute to the atmosphere of the space.
Everything from the design of the flooring and walls, to the scents and music of fitness centers, can help contribute to the atmosphere of the space.


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“There is no product improvement plan going out the door that does not include hardcore renovations to the hotel fitness center,” Shanahan said. She sees most hotels pushing for 700 to 750 square feet of space for fitness facilities, with 500 square feet being the absolute minimum and fitness-focused properties pushing the limit to at least 1,200 square feet.

“It becomes an urban or non-urban question, with urban being the hardest to fit a large fitness center in,” Shanahan said.

In order to make room, some hotels are dropping old amenities that have gone out of style, such as saunas, Jacuzzis and other high-cost fixtures with no return and a reduced ability to draw guests in.

“Fitness facilities are purchasing fewer strength machines and creating larger spaces where recreational training can take place,” said Gary Henkin, president of wellness consultant and manager WTS International. “Medicine balls, foam rollers and single machines that can do more than one exercise can open up more space without doing renovations.”

Jon Liles, VP of strategic planning and development for WTS, says consolidation is the name of the game, creating stations for groups to train at together in cycles, while also allowing for a more open plan. “By planning a fitness center’s layout to be focused on groups, hotels can better benefit from group exercises like Spartan training, yoga and Pilates,” Liles said. “Social fitness is gaining traction, and fitness center layout can support this.”

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