You know what they say: location, location, location. It’s true, especially for business. If you have a bad location, everything is harder from foot traffic to marketing, billboard placement to advertising, and everything in between. You have to start your CrossFit affiliate gym off on the right foot, and to do that, you have to pay close attention to the location you choose.
This can’t be overstated: do not go with the first place you find. We’re going to walk you through everything you need to look out for, and how to balance the list of available prospective properties so you can select the right one for your business. Let’s get started.
Location Metrics to Look for in Rental Properties for Your CrossFit Affiliate Gym
It doesn’t matter if you find the perfect interior with amazing aesthetics, a street view, and floor-to-ceiling windows for ample natural lighting. If it’s in a bad location, it’s all for naught.
You need to know the metrics of an area before you even bother looking at it. You can paint walls and fix damages, but you can’t change the entire demographic of an area. The metrics are out of your control, so you have to find favorable statistics before you build your gym.
Here are some features you should look for in your CrossFit affiliate gym that affect how visible your business will be and how to tell if you’re in a good area.
Plenty of Free Parking
Are there a lot of free parking spots in front of the building? A lot of gyms end up being in strip malls because the rental costs are low, but this can impede upon parking. If you share the lot with six other businesses that all have excellent traffic, it removes the total number of available spots for your gym patrons.
Also, pay attention to the word “free” here. If there’s not a lot of free parking, someone will likely put up a parking garage with a pass system or toll in the nearby vicinity. This obviously depends on the density of the location you live in, but it can and does happen.
Ideally, your gym members will have an easy way to get to you that involves free parking, a short walk, and convenient proximity to their home.
Competition in the Immediate Vicinity
Do you have competitors that are right down the street? Maybe they’re visible from your business’ front door. Either way, you want to understand where your immediate competitors are and what they’re offering. Find out how accessible they are.
Unless your gym offers something amazing that no other gym is offering, people are likely to choose convenience and go to the gym that’s easy to get to. Be critical of the location you’re scouting: would you drive all the way there from across town, or would you go somewhere else? Find out your proximity to the main housing areas of that part of town before you sign a five-year lease on a place you don’t want.
Visibility (From the Road and Compared to Nearby Businesses)
Apart from being in a reachable location, can people even see you from the main road? Your big sign for your gym should be visible to main road traffic (which average over 10,000 cars per day in most areas). While people should be focused on the road, many check out new businesses that they haven’t seen before and make a mental note.
If your gym is visible from the road and stands out from other businesses, it’s free publicity (you know, “free” minus your monthly rent of course—nothing in this business is free). Being visible from the road means that you don’t have to market as hard just to get foot traffic, and new residents to the town or city you’re in will be able to see you without constant advertisement efforts.
Annual Cost to Rent
Not just for your building, mind you—you want to look at local demographics for commercial property, like the gym you’re looking at. Spot trends of how fast the city is growing, if it’s a destination, and what it’s costing local businesses.
These buildings are typically bought up by a ton of real estate development trusts or companies, and they make insane amounts of money. They don’t care about you or your business—if the area is doing well and they suspect your profits are benefitting, they’ll raise your rent when your lease is done.
If a city grows in population and average median income over the span of a three-year lease, expect the new price to be pretty expensive. If profits are good and you enjoy the area, be prepared to either bite the bullet or try to negotiate your gyms lease terms to minimize a price increase.
Proximity to Universities and High Schools
Some of your best customers will be universities. CrossFit is geared towards younger people up to the age of around 35. While there is a demographic of older participants in CrossFit activities and gym memberships, it’s substantially lower. Your best customers will be in the age range of 18 to 35.
If you’re within a close proximity to high schools and universities, you have a good potential influx of customers. Even in college, a lot of people don’t own a car. There are even fewer high school students with their own modes of transportation on average.
Count on them as foot traffic if you’re close enough. You can even market yourself specifically to high school students by posting fliers for your gym on notice boards, or basically anywhere else on campus that you’re allowed to. If they can walk to you in under ten minutes, you’ll have a great influx of organic foot traffic.
Building Features to Look for
Location is important, we’ve talked about rent, but now let’s talk about the building itself. If you have the choice between ten different locations all within the same demographic/area, it’s time to look at the building features and know what you’re getting yourself into.
Overall Size of the Gym
How big is the gym? What do you plan to do? Measure the size up to your expectations and aspirations. If you have big plans, you may have to waylay some of them for a few years until this lease runs out and you can rent a bigger place. Never start with too many plans, or you’ll reinvest all your profits and run out of room.
It’s good to reinvest in your gym—it’s the only way a business grows, but you don’t want to scale so fast that one minor financial drought will ruin you. If the size of the gym fits your current needs (which will usually be classes, cardio equipment, and an area for weightlifting), then you’ll be good to go. Start with that for now.
Relatively High Ceilings
High ceilings are important for many different reasons. For one, they help with sound distribution so it isn’t thunderously noisy in your gym. The sound has more room to bounce around, which reduces the vibrations when it hits the corners of the room. This helps to disperse loud noises, such as a dropped barbell, without hurting the ears of other gym goers.
If you plan on including other areas of your gym besides weightlifting, you could use high ceilings to warrant a trampoline or a rock wall. There are plenty of possibilities. Additionally, you should have high ceilings to enhance aesthetics and build an atmosphere.
Nobody walks into a standard home with eight feet of clearance and thinks, “I think it’s a good idea to lift a barbell above my head in this cramped space.” It makes it feel like a place that’s different from someone’s home.
Proper Plumbing for Bathrooms and Showers
Here’s the deal: plumbing is one of the biggest issues with rentals and purchased buildings. Water ruins everything, it gets everywhere, and the damage is extremely expensive, difficult, and time-consuming to get rid of. You don’t want to run into any plumbing issues.
Check the showers. Check underneath sinks for leaks. Run water in every single pipe and make sure there are no hidden leaks. It’s very easy for a commercial rental company to claim that they didn’t find those problems during their inspections.
Avoid the sales talk they try to push on you and check everything for yourself like you’re investigating and your job depends on it. Even if the realtor or property owner feels awkward about it, it doesn’t matter—you’ll thank yourself later. Don’t regret it later down the line.
Ample Natural Lighting
Think about this in terms of your energy bill (and energy rates are always going up). The more natural light you have, the less you have to spend on overhead lights.
Think about normal gym operating hours. They’re normally during daylight hours between 10 AM and roughly 6 PM. There’s a good amount of natural light during this time.
Ideally, you’ll want to view and tour properties in the mid-afternoon when there’s tons of natural light. This will give you a chance to check out the best angles for natural sunlight and spot dark areas so you don’t have any nasty surprises waiting for you when you go to arrange your gym equipment later on.
Ability to Expand or Make Some Layout Changes
An open floor plan is the best thing you could hope for. If you only have enough machines or instructors to utilize half the gym right after you open, that’s okay—open floor plans allow you to put up dividers for areas that aren’t being used yet while you set things up, that way you can open your gym faster.
Beyond that, nobody goes to a gym that feels like an office building with cubicles. You want a nice open floor plan to promote nice open conversation and engagement. The more open the floor plan, the more you can do with it.
Changing the layout of your gym isn’t something that most new gym operators think about, but it’s something that you end up having to do more often than not. You can plan a layout on paper a hundred times over, but until it’s being used, you don’t really know how it’s going to work. Do your best to take suggestions and critiques from both staff and clients about how accessible and easy-to-use your gym is in terms of your layout. You can always change it later.
Aesthetics of the Building
Last but not least, nobody walks into an ugly or unkempt building—that’s the start of a horror movie and we all know it. The aesthetics of your gym matter quite a bit more than you think.
That’s why it’s best to get a standalone building if you can avoid strip malls. You can’t control who hangs out in the parking lot near the other shops, what shopkeepers move into the other available areas, and who your usual type of foot traffic will be.
The aesthetics of your gym will tell people all they need to know at first glance: adverts in the windows, color-coordinated signs with your gym brand colors, and so on. If the outside of your gym doesn’t look good, nobody’s going to walk in.
Finding the Perfect Location for Your CrossFit Affiliate Gym
You know what to look for, you know how to find it, now the hard part is just going out and doing it. Make sure you survey as many available properties as possible, weigh the pros and cons on location, noise ordinance, cost, and everything else in between.
Each business will rank different expenses or issues in different ways. There’s no one-size-fits-all solution in that regard: write down what’s important to you so that you can achieve your business goals, and make sure that your location reflects your best interests.